Special Report

States That Are Addicted to the Lottery Have a Lot in Common

Chances are you had to go to work today — because you did not have the Mega Millions ticket that netted a near-U.S. record of $1.537 billion.

The winning ticket was drawn at a convenience store in Simpsonville, South Carolina, a town just outside of Greenville. The jackpot fell short of the record of $1.586 billion, set in January 2016, that was divided among three winning Powerball tickets.

The lottery is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands (six states — Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah — do not have a lottery). In five states, lottery mania takes particular hold.

The five states — Massachusetts, West Virginia, Rhode Island, New York, and Delaware — spend the most on lottery ticket sales per capita at more than $400 per year, according to Census Bureau data. Massachusetts is first at $768.36. Across all states that sell lottery tickets, ticket sales per capita is $225.14.

Click here to see the states that are addicted to the lottery.

The states spending the most on lottery tickets share other characteristics.

All five states are also in the top five in dividing up the funds from lottery proceeds per capita, money that is utilized for public use. Rhode Island is first at $349.71. The U.S. average is $71.03.

Geographically concentrated, three of the states — Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island — are in the Northeast. The remaining two states — Delaware and West Virginia — are in the South Atlantic.

In four of the five states, the adult population with a bachelor’s degree either matches or exceeds the national average of 32%. West Virginia is the exception. Three of the five states have high school graduation rates of about 90% or higher (New York and West Virginia are the exceptions). The U.S. average is 88%.

Three of the five states pay out the most lottery winnings per capita. Massachusetts is first, paying out $564.07 per capita in lottery winnings followed by West Virginia at $307.53, and fourth-place New York at $234.47. Rhode Island is 13th at $153.02, and Delaware is 24th at $114.45.

Here is a quick breakdown of the history of the lottery in each state and a notable winner in each of the five states.