Though the odds of winning the jackpot are astronomically low, Americans still spend billions of dollars on the lottery each year in the hopes of striking it rich. Across the 44 states that have some kind of lottery available, Americans bought $81.6 billion worth of lottery tickets in 2019. These states doled out $52.7 billion in winnings, with the difference covering the costs of administering the lottery and going to pay for schools and other state programs.
On average, Americans spent about $320 per person on lottery tickets in 2019. This figure varies widely across the country. In five states, the typical adult spent less than $100 per year on lottery tickets, while in five other states, lottery spending per adult exceeded $500. Such spending nearly hit $1,000 per person in one state.
The states whose residents spend the most on the lottery per person tend to be wealthy. Seven of the eight states with the highest lottery spending per adult resident have a median annual household income of more than $70,000. The U.S. median household income is $65,712. Conversely, the seven states with the lowest lottery spending per adult have lower median household incomes than the country as a whole. These are America’s richest and poorest states.
Though very few lottery players actually win a significant amount of money, and many people suggest that lotteries do far more harm than good, the proceeds of the game are intended to benefit the residents of the states where it is played. Each state divides the profits from the lottery differently, using them to fund schools, parks, veterans programs and more. This money can be important as many states face significant funding challenges.
> Lottery spending per adult: $991.28 (the highest)
> Total lottery ticket sales: $5.5 billion (fifth highest)
> Prize money awarded in 2019: $4.0 billion ($719.63 per adult)
> Median household income: $85,843 (second highest)