How much does the average lottery player probably spend on lottery tickets in a given year? Let’s crunch the numbers, based on some figures we obtained from the Lottery Commission and the Census Bureau.
The Average Adult
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 3 million people living in Arkansas. Of those 3 million, the Census Bureau estimates approximately 2.25 million are ages 18 or older.
So out of the entire state of Arkansas, there are about 2.25 million people old enough to legally play the lottery. Now, an FOI report we got back from the Lottery says that gross lottery sales amounted to approximately $485 million last year. So what are lottery sales like per capita of Arkansans over the age of 18?
$485,000,000 / 2,250,000 = $215 annually.
The Average Lottery Player
However, we know not all of those 2.25 million people play the lottery. In fact, roughly 40% of the people who voted in the 2008 election voted against legalizing a lottery. So how many Arkansans really play the lottery?
Well, 60% of the people voted in favor of having a lottery. But let’s take a more liberal approach to the numbers, and assume that 70% of the people old enough to play the lottery buy lottery tickets (personally, I think it’s much lower than that). Here is the number of Arkansans who probably play the lottery:
2,250,000 x 70% = Approx. 1.58 million Arkansans.
So of the 3 million people living in Arkansas, only a little over half of them probably ever buy a lottery ticket, on average.
Plugging those numbers back into the figures we worked with earlier, here’s the amount of money the average lottery player probably spends in Arkansas:
$485,000,000 / 1,580,000 = Approx. $307 annually.
In other words, even by a conservative estimate, the average lottery player probably spends around $300 or more on lottery tickets every year. That’s about $25 per month. If you think that’s a small amount of money, ask yourself this: What goes through your mind when gas suddenly goes up 10 or 15 cents per gallon? You probably feel like you’re being robbed—even though, if you’re like most people, there’s a good chance that your monthly gasoline bill hasn’t increased by $25. It’s a lot of money, when you get down to it.
The “Regular” Lottery Customer
However, we know not everyone who plays the lottery will buy $300 worth of tickets this year. There’s a common notion with lotteries—as with many businesses—that 20% of the customers account for 80% of the sales. In other words, its bread and butter are a handful of “regular” customers.
So if 20% of the people are buying almost all of the lottery tickets, let’s try the numbers one more time:
1.58 million x 20% = Approx. 316,000 people are buying the bulk of lottery tickets.
$485,000,000 x 80% = Approx. $388 million.
So in other words, there’s a good possibility that a subset of heavy lottery players in Arkansas are responsible for $388 million in lottery sales each year. And if you’re a regular player of the Arkansas Lottery, just how much do you probably spend on lottery tickets every year?
$388,000,000 / 316,000 = Approx. $1,228 annually per person!
That’s roughly $100 per month, and there’s a good chance that some people are spending a lot more than that. Independent studies in other states have found that the handful of people who play lotteries the most play out of desperation—they’re trying to win rent money, grocery money, or money that will cover some other important expense. They’re poor, and lottery winnings are their way of trying to improve their economic condition.
The Bottom Line
No matter how you slice the numbers, the bottom line is the Arkansas Lottery is removing hundreds of millions of dollars from our economy each year, and it’s taking advantage our most vulnerable citizens to do it. We shut down the payday lenders because their practices hurt Arkansas’ poor. We ought to do the same with the Lottery.