Lottery sales still depend on economic desperation

Counties with high poverty, unemployment, and property tax rates also tend to have high lottery sales per adult. This is a consistent finding. We’ve seen this since 2007, making the same findings in 2010, 2014, and 2016.

Here are the numbers for county lottery sales per adult for Fiscal Year 2019:


Click the image for a larger size. Data sources (most recent used): NC Education Lottery (Fiscal Year 2019 sales); NC Commerce Department (2019 Tiers); US Census Bureau (adult population 2018, poverty rate 2017, median income 2017); US Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment July 2019); NC Department of Revenue (property taxes 2018-19).

I also sorted the counties according to different ranges of poverty rates, unemployment rates, property taxes, and median household incomes. Did I still see higher lottery sales per adult in counties with worse measures of economic distress?

Again, consistently, yes:

Click the image for a larger size. Data sources (most recent used): NC Education Lottery (Fiscal Year 2019 sales); NC Commerce Department (2019 Tiers); US Census Bureau (adult population 2018, poverty rate 2017, median income 2017); US Bureau of Labor Statistics (unemployment July 2019); NC Department of Revenue (property taxes 2018-19).

Lottery officials caution that county sales may be affected by commuting, tourism, proximity to interstates, etc. It is likely true that some poor counties would therefore have disproportionate sales from non-residents. But that could not be enough to explain away these consistent findings.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

Reader Comments