Americans Spend More On Lottery Tickets Than On Movies, Video Games, Music, Sports Tix And Books Combined

Full explanation from Convergex' Nick Colas on how and why Americans are lining up in lines around the block to... pay more taxes.


What Seems To Be Is Always Better than Nothing


Summary: American adults spent an average of $251 on lottery tickets.  With a return of 53 cents on the dollar, this means the average person threw away $118 on unsuccessful lotto tickets – not a great investment.  So why are we spending so much?  Well, lotteries are a fun, cheap opportunity to daydream about the possibility of becoming an overnight millionaire (or in this case billionaire), but on the flip side people tend to overestimate the odds of winning.  Lower-income demographics spend a much greater portion of their annual earnings on lottery tickets than do wealthier ones


Since lotteries are state-run, that effectively means that the less affluent pay more in taxes (albeit by choice) than broadly appreciated.  And even winning the lottery doesn’t guarantee financial success.  More than 5% of lottery winners declare bankruptcy within 5 years of taking home the jackpot.  Despite their drawbacks, though, lotteries are no doubt here for the long haul – in states that have lotteries, an average of 11% of their total revenues come from lottery ticket sales, and the number is even as high as 36% in 2 states (West Virginia and Michigan).
 
Consider the following credit-card-advertisement style sequence of statistics:



  • Lottery ticket sales in the US in 2010:  $59 billion

  • Average spending per person:  $191

  • Average spending per adult:  $251

  • Chance at hitting the jackpot:  (Apparently) priceless.


I have never bought a lottery ticket and honestly don’t even know how.  And as far as I’m aware, I don’t know anyone who spends north of 200 bucks a year playing the lotto.  The only lottery my friends play is the NYC marathon lottery, where they’re gambling for maybe a 1 in 13 chance to fork over $255 for the privilege of slugging out 26 miles through the city’s streets.  Not quite hitting the jackpot in most people’s minds.


But someone, somewhere is buying all those tickets.  In Massachusetts, where the lottery is more popular than in any other state, people spend an average of $634 a year on Mega Millions, Powerball and the like.  Delaware comes in at number 2 with $504 spent per person, while Rhode Island ($469), West Virginia ($388) and New York ($357) round out the top 5.  North Dakota brings up the rear with per capita lottery spending of $34.  You can see the full list in the table following the text.


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