Who doesn’t dream of winning big and instantly becoming richer? It turns out that poor people think about it way more often than middle-class and richer individuals. The dream of quick cash makes poor ones play the lottery the most. Many studies show that lottery players are poor or at least that the vast majority of tickets get purchased by low income individuals.
Many leading studies that have taken place through the years suggest that most lottery players are poor. This seems to be a theme that researchers are fascinated with. An interesting study was presented in the Journal of Gambling Studies in 2011. Researchers found out that poor people are the driving force behind the growth of lottery revenue. This was the case even in situations when poor were made to feel even poorer through the purchase of lottery tickets.
The poor spend a larger sum of their overall income on the purchase of lottery tickets than other people. The most impoverished third of households in the US buy half of all lottery tickets, a Duke University study suggests. According to researchers, one of the reasons is that lottery games are advertised much more aggressively in poor neighborhoods.
This isn’t the case solely in the US. When looking at the 20 poorest countries in the world, researchers have found out that 18 of them had lottery ticket sales that exceed the US average of 200 dollars per adult.
Lottery ticket sales increase with poverty, but the sales of movie tickets, for example, do not. This fact shows rather clearly what the poor are ready to spend their money on. The evidence is here to stay – lottery players are poor and there are several reasons why they’re choosing to dedicate their money to hopes of quick cash.
Why Do Poor People Play the Lottery?
People have two main reasons for playing the lottery – half of them do it for fun and half of them do it for cash. Among poor individuals, however, the percentage of people who play in hopes of winning cash is much higher than the people who are simply enjoying themselves.
Some have labeled the lottery “a prayer against poverty.” There are even more radical theories. According to some, states are advertising lotteries the most against their poorest residents. When individuals become somewhat addicted to the purchase of lottery tickets, they start paying for government services this way.
It’s a well-known fact that some of the funds generated through ticket sales go to support charitable causes, sports and infrastructure development. In a sense, the most hopeless citizens are becoming contributing members of society this way.
A study was presented in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making in 2008. The thesis was that poor people play the lottery the most not because of cognitive errors or sheer stupidity. Rather, they feel that everyone has the same odds of winning. Lotteries create an even playing field, giving both the rich and the poor the exact same chance.
This is why members of the lowest socioeconomic status are responsible for 61 percent of lottery gambling, according to a detailed report presented in 2012. These people know the odds much better than the individuals who’re just playing for fun. They’re largely poor, members of minorities and people who are predisposed to addictive behavior. They know what they’re doing, but they have little to lose. As a result, researchers conclude, the lottery is “praying” on these people and their psychological predisposition.
Big Lotteries Aren’t a Poor Man’s Game, Small Ones Are
There’s one more interesting phenomenon when it comes to the incomes of people playing the lottery and the games that they choose.
Million-dollar lotteries aren’t the ones that poor individuals prefer. Rather, they opt for state lotteries, smaller games and scratch cards. Researchers have found out that games like Powerball and Mega Millions draw equally big numbers of poor and middle-income players. This is particularly true for drawings that come with a massive jackpot.
Daily games aren’t being played by an economically-diverse population. They’re seen as the lotteries of poor people. For a start, Powerball odds of winning are much less favorable than in the case of games like Pick 3. In addition, even a smaller jackpot in a daily game will be a massive win for a poor individual. People know that the odds of becoming a multi-millionaire are limited. This is why they tend to gravitate towards opportunities that can be considered a lot more modest.
As a result, such small games have been on the rise throughout the US. They take place daily and scratch cards can be purchased at any given time. People don’t have to wait for the big Powerball drawing. They can test their luck and get a bit of gratification every single day of the week.
In 2012, instant games generated revenue of 653.31 million dollars – the biggest share out of all lotteries in the US. Daily games came in second with 220.06 million dollars in sales. The shares of Powerball and Mega Millions were only 74.28 and 40.63 million dollars respectively.
Researchers concluded that the state lotteries and the instant games are the ones that rely on the poorest for their revenue. In fact, anywhere between 70 and 80 percent of their revenue is generated by approximately 10 percent of society members.
A lot of people in massive financial trouble think this is the only way to get back on their feet. This is why the overwhelming majority of lottery players are poor. This isn’t a sign that people don’t grasp the concept of statistics. They’re poor, they’re desperate and they don’t see a way out of the situation. Lotteries sell hope and this has been the case throughout time. Growth in lottery sales was massive during the Great Depression. Players tend to belong to vulnerable groups. At the same time, playing the lottery is a voluntary, conscious decision. The lottery is a massive source of income for states and so the vicious cycle goes.