Factual Guide to State Lotteries

Every New England state has a lottery. Scratch off tickets, Keno, and numerous pick’em games such as Powerball are part of the state lotteries. They are considered important state revenue providers. There’s more to the state lottery. Today’s post Factual Guide to State Lotteries looks at gaming products from the state Lottery as well as the damage from COVID-19.

COVID-19 and the Massachusetts State Lotteries

New England State Lotteries experienced a big hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Massachusetts State Lottery is one of the top revenue producers in the country. As the virus spread in March, the Mass Lottery experienced a significant drop-off.

Scratch tickets and Keno, which account for roughly 69 percent and 20 percent of the Lottery’s daily revenues, respectively, saw the harshest drops. Buyers took fewer grocery store trips. Closed bars and restaurants, providing the bulk of KENO sales, were closed. Of course, scratch-off vending machines in New England’s casinos secured nothing in revenue during their closure.

Just considering March alone, The third week saw sales drop by $22.9 million, or 20.6 percent, compared to the first week of March. And the fourth full week of March saw sales that were $32.7 million, or 29.3 percent, lower than the first week of the month.

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Factual Guide to State Lotteries Question – “Should I Play?”

Factual Guide to State LotteriesFactual Guide to State Lotteries
Scratch Tickets

The Factual Guide to State Lotteries backs the players. If you wish to play 6:5 blackjack because the table is fun, go ahead. I hope you are aware of the increased house edge you are playing with.

With any form of lottery, the edge is high in the state’s favor. The Wizard of Odds states, “Although there are many ways to play the lottery and prizes have grown into the billions of dollars, they are still basically a 50/50 raffle. In other words, 50% of ticket sales go to some special project or government program, and the other 50% is divided somehow among the winners.”

Proponents of state lotteries defend these odds saying that “the cost of playing is small and you have to “play to win.” But at 50% odds, or more (i.e., Powerball), a small rip-off is still a rip-off.

Don Catlin, a retired University of Massachusetts math professor who provides advice to casinos, says, “This huge house edge for the lottery illustrates why it is such a bad investment. The edge is what the [lottery] keeps instead of returning the money to winners in the form of prizes.”

Links to New England State Lotteries.

Mass Lottery, New Hampshire Lottery, Connecticut Lottery, Maine Lottery, Rhode Island Lottery, Vermont Lottery

Interesting Things About State Lotteries

  • Powerball tickets are sold in 44 states, Washington, D.C., and two U.S. territories.
  • State Lotteries in Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont were New England State lotteries ranked in the top ten for payout percentage. Mass Lottery was number one, with an average of 78% payout. Rhode Island was 6th from the bottom with a payout % too low to print without embarrassment.
  • 5 years or less is the typical amount of time it takes a lottery winner to burn through his winnings
  • you’re far more likely to die a horrible death than win. Compared with winning the lottery, you are 33 times as likely to be killed by bees, 50 times as likely to be struck by lightning, 8,000 times as likely to be murdered, and 20,000 times as likely to be killed in a car crash.
  • The first recorded signs of a lottery are keno slips from the Chinese Han Dynasty between 205 and 187 BC. These lotteries are believed to have helped to finance major government projects like the Great Wall of China.
  • State Lotteries will continue to sell game scratch tickets, even though the top prizes have already hit. Check the state Lottery website to see which games have top prizes still available.

The Lottery and the American Revolution

Factual Guide to State LotteriesFactual Guide to State Lotteries
Massachusetts Lottery dates back to the 1700’s.

For early American settlers, buying a lottery ticket wasn’t just a vice or a guilty pleasure—it was a colonist’s civic duty. That’s because lotteries were one of the biggest ways that the 13 colonies supported themselves financially. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the colonies used lotteries to fund libraries, churches, and colleges (i.e., Harvard, William & Mary, and Princeton). They even tried to use them to fund the American Revolution.

Finally, Where Does All That Money Go?

Not only the winners that benefit from the lottery, All these people benefit too (as do many more):

  • The store that sells the ticket gets a percentage of sales and a cut of any winnings over a certain amount
  • The lottery machine manufacturer
  • The team that created the software to run the machines
  • The people that install and maintain the machines
  • The lottery marketing teams
  • Websites, TV stations, and Radio stations that advertise the lottery
  • The companies that make the special paper for the tickets
  • The companies that design the scratch-off tickets
  • The delivery companies that deliver the tickets


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