Politics

Lotteries: America’s $70 Billion Shame

A clerk prepares to operate a lottery machine to print out Mega Millions lottery tickets for a customer at Tobacco Plus, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, in Muncie, Ind. With tickets selling well, the jackpot for tonight's drawing is now at an estimated $636 million, the second-biggest lottery prize in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Derek Thompson, THE ATLANTIC

 

(The Atlantic) — This floored me: Americans in the 43 states where lotteries are legal spent $70 billion on lotto games in 2014.

Seventy billion? I thought. No, that’s impossible. That’s more than $230 for every man, woman, and child in those states—or $300 for each adult.

But it’s true: According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, lotteries took in $70.1 billion in sales in the 2014 fiscal year. That’s more than Americans in all 50 states spent on sports tickets, books, video games, movie tickets, and recorded music sales.

The national average hides a lot of variance among the states. In North Dakota, per-capita lottery spending is a pittance at just $36 a year. In South Dakota, however, it’s an egregious $755 per head. Lotto games bring in the most money per person in the mid-Atlantic and northeast: number-one Rhode Island (nearly $800 per capita!), Massachusetts, and Delaware are among the top five states, while New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania join them in the top 13 (so does Washington, D.C.).

 

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