People in this state lose the most money playing the lottery


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After a year of high inflation, many Americans may dream more about unlimited wealth. Record-high and near-record-high lottery jackpots occurred this year — a $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot in November and a $1.337 billion Mega Millions jackpot in July.

In light of these life-changing jackpots, LendingTree researchers looked at how much people are spending on lotteries by state — and whether they can afford it. Additionally, we asked nearly 2,000 U.S. consumers about their lottery attitudes and habits. Here’s what we found.

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Key findings

  • Massachusetts residents spent the most per capita on lottery tickets and scratch-offs. Residents spent $805.30 per capita in 2020 — the latest available data — dwarfing fellow Northeastern states New York ($455.93) and Rhode Island ($429.88). Meanwhile, North Dakota residents spent only $32.24 per capita, below Wyoming ($40.97) and Montana ($58.62).
  • There’s a saying that you have to spend money to make money, and Massachusetts residents playing the lottery are doing that. Residents got back 70 cents in lottery prize money for every dollar they spent in 2020 — the second-highest after Missouri (71 cents) and ahead of three states at 69 cents. In South Dakota, payouts were only 19 cents per dollar spent, below West Virginia (22 cents) and Oregon (23 cents).
  • Combining these elements to compare sales to payouts, Rhode Island residents lost the most cash on lotteries. Rhode Island residents had the worst deficit — the amount spent per capita minus prize payouts per capita — at $281.63 in 2020, followed by West Virginia ($249.81) and Massachusetts ($244.49). The states that spent the least overall had the smallest deficits: North Dakota ($15.69), Wyoming ($17.31) and Montana ($24.60).
  • Spending and losses only tell part of the story, though, even if Massachusetts remained at the top of the list of states where residents spent the biggest share of their personal income on lotteries. Massachusetts residents still dominated — they spent $10.26 for every $1,000 of personal income in the state in 2020 — but Georgia ($8.29) and South Carolina ($8.27) joined the conversation for the first time.
  • Knowing where their state lands on spending and payouts could be important to the 60% of Americans who play the lottery. A separate LendingTree survey found that 86% of lottery players buy scratch-offs, while 65% buy tickets. Amid last month’s Powerball craze, more than half of Americans (58%) say they’d prefer a lump-sum payment if they beat the odds and won the lottery.

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To determine consumers’ per-capita lottery spending, LendingTree researchers analyzed ticket sales (excluding commissions) in 2020 by state. Researchers then added the estimated commissions that participating stores receive for selling a winning ticket, estimating a rate of 5.5% based on data from Playport — an online gambling platform used by lottery retailers.

  • To determine the amount consumers won per dollar spent, researchers divided lottery prize payouts per capita by lottery sales per capita.
  • To determine the amount consumers lost, researchers subtracted lottery prize payouts per capita from the lottery sales per capita.

However, personal incomes in some states are low enough that the losses may be more meaningful — even if the total loss is lower. To determine which states can least afford lottery losses, researchers compared lottery sales to statewide personal incomes in 2020. Researchers looked at lottery sales and losses per $1,000 in personal income in the state.

The following states don’t have lotteries: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.

LendingTree researchers analyzed lottery data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2020 Annual Survey of State Government Finance — the latest available. Researchers also used the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revised 2020 estimates on state personal income.

Analysts estimated the amount spent by residents of each state on lotteries (annual ticket sales excluding commissions, plus an assumed 5.5% in commissions), prize payouts and net losses on a per-capita basis, as well as the amount spent, won and lost on lotteries per $1,000 in statewide personal income. Losses are defined as total estimated sales minus total prize payouts.

Population data for 2020 is from the BEA. The following states don’t have lotteries and were excluded from our analysis: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah.

Separately, LendingTree commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,033 U.S. consumers ages 18 to 76 on Oct. 18, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

We defined generations as the following ages in 2022:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 25
  • Millennial: 26 to 41
  • Generation X: 42 to 56
  • Baby boomer: 57 to 76

Which states have the biggest lottery losers?

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45. North Dakota

Lottery sales per capita: $32.24

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $16.55

Losses per capita: $15.69

Related: States with the highest foreclosure rates

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44. Wyoming

Lottery sales per capita: $40.97

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $23.66

Losses per capita: $17.31

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43. Montana

Lottery sales per capita: $58.62

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $34.02

Losses per capita: $24.6

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42. Oklahoma

Lottery sales per capita:  $71.23

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $41.87

Losses per capita: $29.36

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41.New Mexico

Lottery sales per capita: $63.83

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $32.42

Losses per capita: $31.41

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40. Washington

Lottery sales per capita: $101.34

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $68.92

Losses per capita: $32.42

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Lottery sales per capita: $99.89

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $66.83

Losses per capita:  $33.06

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38. Kansas

Lottery sales per capita: $90.54

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $57.15

Losses per capita:  $33.39

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Lottery sales per capita:  $110.94

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $73.10

Losses per capita: $37.84

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36. Nebraska

Lottery sales per capita: $93.78

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $55.88

Losses per capita: $37.90

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35. Minnesota

Lottery sales per capita: $116.67

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $77.82

Losses per capita: $38.85

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34. Iowa

Lottery sales per capita:  $116.28

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $74.70

Losses per capita:  $41.58

Related: The median household net worth in every single state

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33. Idaho

Lottery sales per capita: $148.08

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $101.73

Losses per capita: $46.35

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32. Wisconsin

Lottery sales per capita: $124.18

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $77.76

Losses per capita: $46.42

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31. Arizona

Lottery sales per capita: $145.93

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $99.43

Losses per capita: $46.50

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30. Louisiana

Lottery sales per capita:  $109.40

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $59.83

Losses per capita: $49.57

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29. Arkansas

Lottery sales per capita: $185.57

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $121.96

Losses per capita: $63.61

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28. California

Lottery sales per capita:  $178.00

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $111.86

Losses per capita:  $66.14

Related:  The safest cities in the US (40% are in this one region)

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27. Indiana

Lottery sales per capita: $201.99

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $135.33

Losses per capita: $66.66

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26. Vermont

Lottery sales per capita: $218.53

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $147.02

Losses per capita:  $71.51

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25. Maine

Lottery sales per capita: $229.87

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $158.25

Losses per capita: $71.62

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23. Texas

Lottery sales per capita: $229.08

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $151.30

Losses per capita: $77.78

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24. Missouri

Lottery sales per capita: $244.79

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $172.72

Losses per capita: $72.07

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22. Tennessee

Lottery sales per capita: $239.26

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $158.57

Losses per capita: $80.69

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21. Kentucky

Lottery sales per capita: $267.64

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $178.96

Losses per capita: $88.68

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20. North Carolina

Lottery sales per capita: $274.82

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $184.66

Losses per capita: $90.16

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19. Illinois

Lottery sales per capita: $238.90

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $146.35

Losses per capita:  $92.55

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18. Virginia

Lottery sales per capita: $249.80

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $153.44

Losses per capita: $96.36

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17. Ohio

Lottery sales per capita: $293.03

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $193.21

Losses per capita: $99.82

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16. New Hampshire

Lottery sales per capita: $285.91

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $180.69

Losses per capita: $105.22

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15. Pennsylvania

Lottery sales per capita: $342.70

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $229.01

Losses per capita: $113.69

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14. Florida

Lottery sales per capita: $345.25

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $231.45

Losses per capita: $113.80

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13. South Carolina

Lottery sales per capita: $397.11

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $272.94

Losses per capita: $124.17

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12. Maryland

Lottery sales per capita:  $354.03

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $226.07

Losses per capita: $127.96

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11. Delaware

Lottery sales per capita: $325.01

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $191.76

Losses per capita: $133.25

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10. Connecticut

Lottery sales per capita: $366.63

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $231.16

Losses per capita: $135.47

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9. New Jersey

Lottery sales per capita: $361.00

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $221.74

Losses per capita: $139.26

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8. Michigan

Lottery sales per capita: $408.51

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $264.89

Losses per capita: $143.62

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7. Georgia

Lottery sales per capita: $429.51

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $284.37

Losses per capita: $145.14

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6.South Dakota

Lottery sales per capita: $207.97

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $40.49

Losses per capita: $167.48

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5. Oregon

Lottery sales per capita: $231.37

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $52.69

Losses per capita: $178.68

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4. New York

Lottery sales per capita: $455.93

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $239.11

Losses per capita: $216.82

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Lottery sales per capita: $805.30

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $560.81

Losses per capita: $244.49

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2. West Virginia

Lottery sales per capita: $321.44

Lottery prize payouts per capita:  $71.63

Losses per capita: $249.81

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1. Rhode Island

Lottery sales per capita: $429.88

Lottery prize payouts per capita: $148.25

Losses per capita: $281.63

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