Sales of lottery tickets rise as economy falters

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One dollar won't buy you a half-gallon of gas or milk, but it will buy you a draw in the Keno! lottery game. Poor economic news in Georgia and South Carolina correlates with an uptick in lottery ticket sales in both states, but lottery officials say entertainment, not hope for relief, is the reason.

The Georgia Lottery had a $97.6 million increase in sales over the previous fiscal year, bringing in $3.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That marked the highest sales in its 15-year history, according to lottery officials.

The South Carolina Educational Lottery also saw an increase in sales, from $988,158,152 in 2007 to $992,492,777 in the fiscal year ending June 30. That was the second-largest take since the lottery began in 2002.

Tandi Reddick, the media relations manager for the Georgia Lottery Corp., said the lottery, like any other business, is affected by the economy. If you ask whether a downturn in the economy caused more people to buy more lottery tickets, you could also ask whether sales would be higher if the economy were better, Ms. Reddick said.

"We offer an entertainment product," she said.

South Carolina Educational Lottery Executive Director Ernie Passailaigue attributed the state's lottery success to greater and broader appeal.

South Carolina had experienced a drop in sales in 2007 after North Carolina began its lottery the previous year.

Some people play the lottery even when prices of necessities such as gas and milk are rising because they feel behind financially, or feel their income isn't where it should be, according to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University.

Emily Haisley, the lead researcher on the study, said she can't deduce from the study whether people feeling the crunch from the economy has had an impact on lottery sales.

"I wouldn't predict that they drop," she said.

David Mustard, a professor of economics at the University of Georgia who has done research on the Georgia lottery, noted that the sales uptick is relatively small, 2.9 percent.

"What we've seen is a much slower (lottery sales) growth," he said. "Georgia is a fast-growing state."

Compared with the population growth, "the rate of (lottery) growth has dropped substantially," he said.

Mr. Passailaigue said the South Carolina lottery has seen lower sales in areas with poor populations, such as Allendale County.

Critics contend that primary players in state lotteries are poor, said Mark Thompson, an economics professor at Augusta State University.

"The probability of winning, obviously, is very small," he said.

The ones who play the most have the most to lose, Ms. Haisley said. Low-income individuals, with an income of $10,000 spend about 3 percent of their income on lottery tickets.

Because of the investment, Dr. Thompson said, those players who are poor might value it more.

"They may feel like that's their only chance of getting out of poverty," he said.

In downtown Augusta, Lotto Express owner Jennie Hope said she has seen a decrease in sales, particularly in the past three months. She attributes the fall to the rise in other prices.

Tina Thurmond, of North Augusta, has played the Georgia Lottery since 1993.

"I would like to get a financial gain, but I play it for fun," she said.

She said she limits herself to $20 per week, and uses discretionary funds. She comes over the river to buy tickets because South Carolina's lottery is younger and she thinks the Georgia Lottery pays out more.

Jerry Anderson, of Augusta, has played the same numbers for three years -- he's looking to catch up financially, he said, playing Mega Millions and Cash 4.

"I'm just looking for the payout," he said.

Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or sarah.owen@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (13) Add comment
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afadel
494
Points
afadel 08/01/08 - 06:39 am
0
0
If there's anything "values"

If there's anything "values" voters should be getting fired up about, it's ending these exploitative state lotteries. Isn't gambling a sin? Now the biggest gambling house is the state government.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 08/01/08 - 07:02 am
0
0
Regardless of the sin, what

Regardless of the sin, what the lottery does is it retires money out of the economy too fast. Many of the dollars spent on lottery are coming from the state already, ie: welfare, social security, etc. Instead of being reintroduced into the state economy where it is turned over many times, the state check is turned into cash and then they give it back to the Governor by buying tickets. If it were spent on food, rent, clothes, transportation, entertainment, etc. then those dollars would touch so many more people and some of it would stick.

DeborahElliott2
4
Points
DeborahElliott2 08/01/08 - 07:28 am
0
0
These are rip off tickets at

These are rip off tickets at best. Everyone else outside our area wins, but those in GA don't as often. My husband dreams of winning the lottery cause he struggles with a job that keeps laying him off every year, and forced to find another one. Around here though, these people only hire those they know and this is wrong for the economy at best too!

i.b.e.w..electric
0
Points
i.b.e.w..electric 08/01/08 - 07:30 am
0
0
i seldom play the lottery but

i seldom play the lottery but what burns me up is a report done last year where the people of columbia county contribute less to the lottery than the surrounding counties but they recieve the most money from it,go figure.

i.b.e.w..electric
0
Points
i.b.e.w..electric 08/01/08 - 07:33 am
0
0
what kind of work does your

what kind of work does your husband do deborah,one thing about the lottery ,it seems like alot more was being spent on education before we joined the multistate program ,makes you wonder whos getting the lions share of the money.

Edward B. Turner
69
Points
Edward B. Turner 08/01/08 - 08:03 am
0
0
It's this elemental: No vice

It's this elemental: No vice is acceptable unless the government gets their cut. Some things will never change.

White_Trash1
0
Points
White_Trash1 08/01/08 - 08:54 am
0
0
Entertainment my [filtered word].

Entertainment my [filtered word].

zcock
60
Points
zcock 08/01/08 - 09:03 am
0
0
A} The Lottery is a TAX on

A} The Lottery is a TAX on Morons! B) It is a redistribution of federal funds IE: Welfare. C) State Sanctioned Gambling. As mentioned above... the state education budgets have not increased with the normal rates since the start of the lottery. No need to fund the budget as much since the lottery brings so much money. Yeah Right!

BarstoolDreamer
19
Points
BarstoolDreamer 08/01/08 - 09:24 am
0
0
Relax.....It's a GAME.

Relax.....It's a GAME.

PLAYLIKETHUNDER4
0
Points
PLAYLIKETHUNDER4 08/01/08 - 11:13 am
0
0
the ga state lottery budget

the ga state lottery budget for advertising must be astronomical, not to mention the monies paid to the folks who think up all these silly game variations.....so sad....

bone
23
Points
bone 08/01/08 - 01:07 pm
0
0
a tax on stupidity & false

a tax on stupidity & false hope. notice the education / income level of the average folks you see buying tickets (as well as the most active selling locations). tragic

DeborahElliott2
4
Points
DeborahElliott2 08/01/08 - 03:04 pm
0
0
i.b.e.w..electric, my husband

i.b.e.w..electric, my husband works a seasonal job and gets laid off every October thru January and then goes back to work full time until October. It forces us to keep job hunting, but here in South Augusta, minimum wage jobs are not footing the bills like they used to. This is why my husband wants to win the lottery so bad, he literally buys only one ticket at a time cause it is all he can buy without breaking the bank account. I admit, I don't like living paycheck to paycheck either, but with gas and such I am lucky to find work in Columbia County where as I could not even get hardly an interview over here. Even the Dept of Labor told me its not what you know, its who you know that gets you a job in RC area (as wrong as it is cause they hurt the economy more this way).

i.b.e.w..electric
0
Points
i.b.e.w..electric 08/01/08 - 03:27 pm
0
0
ok,i didnt know if i might be

ok,i didnt know if i might be able to help him find something or not ,thats why i ask.i know what you mean about working in columbia co.,my wife used to work in daycare and she worked at three diff. places in columbia co and in every one of them when her coworkers found out she lived in south augusta she was shunned and picked on.

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