As American author Ambrose Bierce famously wrote, the lottery is “a tax on people who are bad at math.” Indeed, the odds of winning big in games like Powerball or Mega Millions are about 175 million to one. Still, millions of Americans willingly spend their hard-earned money for a chance at an early retirement, lifelong financial security, and the extravagant lifestyle that a single lucky ticket could provide.
Americans spent a staggering $71.8 billion on lottery tickets in 2017 — or about $285 per adult. Of course, lottery ticket spending is not the same across all states, and in some parts of the country, Americans appear much more willing to spend in the hopes of hitting the jackpot.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 Annual Survey of State Government Finances, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed total lottery spending per person 18 and over to identify how much the average adult spends on the lottery in every state.
Population figures and income data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community survey. Per capita spending on the lottery ranges by state, from as little as $45 to as much nearly $927. Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah did not permit the sale of lottery tickets in 2017, the most recent year for which ticket sale data is available.
According to a 2016 Gallup poll, higher-income Americans are more likely to play the lottery than those on the lower end of the income spectrum. In keeping with that finding, the majority of states with greater lottery spending per adult also have higher than average median household incomes. Here is a look at America’s richest and poorest states.
For a number of state governments, the lottery is an important source of revenue. States collect far more in lottery ticket sales than they pay out to winners. After accounting for prize money and administrative costs, proceeds from state lotteries often total in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. Still, most states get the largest portion of their annual revenue from either income or sales taxes. Here is a look at the states where Americans pay the most in taxes.