State Lotteries Win Out During Recession

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
State Lotteries

People want to make that fast buck during the current recession with nominal risk.  The result has been an increase in the number of state lottery tickets purchased.

More than half of all states with lotteries have reported rising sales over the past six months, and some researchers say financial insecurity might be driving people to risk more of their money than usual on $1 and $5 instant scratch-offs and other daily games in hopes of a big payoff.

"Someday somebody is going to win and I hope it is me," said Albert Atwood of Nashville, who spends $100 weekly playing the Pick 5 and Lotto Plus. "I imagine that I would be a heap better off if I saved this money, but everybody has dreams."

"A major appeal of the state lotteries just like with online casinos and poker rooms is the nominal risk involved," commented Carrie Stroup, who doubles as both a Senior reporter and a virtual host for the online casino enterprise Players Only.  "The online casino requires no more than a dollar to play just like with regular land-based casinos only there is no transportation and accommodation costs involved."

The same holds true for the state lotteries, where tickets can be acquired in many cases right around the corner at a local newsstand, in many cases for a mere dollar. 

The state lottery winnings can be huge for a lucky few.  For example, A ticket with all six numbers in the Tuesday, January, 13, multi-state Mega Millions draw was sold in New York and is worth $22 million, California Lottery officials announced.

Five tickets -- one each sold in California, Illinois, Texas and two in New York -- had five numbers, but didn't have the Mega number. All but the one sold in California is worth $250,000.

The value of the California ticket is expected to be announced Wednesday. State law restricts payoffs of California Lottery games to pari-mutuel prizes.

The odds of winnig are also huge, however.  The odds of winning the Powerball Jackpot, for example, are 1 in 195,249,054.00!

It's interesting also to see the states that have profited dramatically from these increases in lottery ticket purchases since sales are supposed to go towards education and other state programs.  Ironically these are the first to be cut as part of state budget adjustments.

_ In Washington, D.C., instant sales reached a record of $45 million in the 2008 fiscal year, representing an 11 percent year-over-year increase.

_ In Tennessee, sales of instant lottery games were up $8 million during the fiscal first quarter ending in October.

_ The Massachusetts lottery reached a record of $4.7 billion in sales during the last fiscal year, up from $4.4 billion in the previous year.

Nationwide, instant and daily lottery revenues have been on the rise since 2004, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

States' revenues from multistate lotteries, such as MegaMillions and Powerball, have dropped. But industry officials say sales of those tickets tend to fluctuate as the value of their jackpots rise and fall. If there is no winner one week, the size of these jackpots increases the following week.

Two out of every five states with lotteries are experiencing falling sales, according to Scientific Games' research.

A Rockefeller Institute of Government study released in June says that revenue is at an all-time high but growth has slowed to about half of its long-term annual growth rate of 5.1 percent.

In Georgia, instant ticket sales increased by 7 percent from September to October of fiscal year 2008 but just 2 percent from September to October of fiscal year 2009.

"Scratch-offs are more addictive than other lottery games because they are inexpensive and purchased almost anywhere," said Gail Howard, author of Lottery Master Guide and New York Lottery News columnist. "People are playing because they hope to score so they can have something in their pockets."

Jagajeet Chiba,



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