A Factual Guide to State Lotteries

Every New England state has a lottery. Scratch-off tickets, Keno, and numerous pick’em games like Powerball are part of the state lotteries. States consider these essential parts of their state revenue. But there’s more to the state lottery. Factual Guide to State Lotteries looks at gaming products from the New England state Lotteries.

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

Factual Guide to State Lotteries
Scratch Tickets

With any form of the state lottery, the edge is high in their favor. Still, millions of American residents habitually play state lottos and buy scratch tickets.

“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.”

Michael Shackleford, the Wizard of Odds

Proponents of state lotteries defend these odds by 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 rip-off is still a rip-off.

Don Catlin, a retired University of Massachusetts math professor who advises 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 prizes.”

Scratch-off Suggestion

Always ask for the latest scratch game. Not because they will necessarily pay off better, but because many states will keep scatch games going after the top prizes have been awarded.

One way to find out where your favorite scratcher stands in this is to go to the Lottery website. Many state lotteries list the top prizes that have been hit.

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

More About State Lotteries

Factual Guide to State Lotteries
Massachusetts Lottery dates back to the 1700s.
  • For early American settlers, buying a lottery ticket wasn’t just a vice or a guilty pleasure—it was a colonist’s civic duty since lotteries were huge financial boosts for the 13 colonies. In the 17th and 18th centuries, lotteries funded libraries, churches, and colleges (i.e., Harvard, William & Mary, and Princeton)
  • 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.
  • Five years or less is the typical 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.
  • 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 still have top prizes.

Finally, Where Does All That Money Go?

Not only do the winners benefit from the lottery, but all of the following do as well:

  • 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