Americans shun lotteries in times of trouble

Fri Nov 28, 2008 12:12pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lottery tickets are proving not to be the big business they're cracked up to be in times of financial crisis.

Reuters contacted all 42 state lotteries. Of the 27 that responded, 14 said sales were down from last year, 9 said sales were steady and 4 reported an increase.

"It's been kind of an industry notion that lotteries are recession-proof, but I think what we're experiencing right now is a little bit harsher than slow economies in the past," said Chuck Baumann of the Oregon Lottery.

"People are just counting their dollars and cents," he said in a state where sales are down some 2 percent from last year.

Lotteries are the most common form of gambling in the United States, Gallup opinion polls regularly find, showing that almost 50 percent of Americans buy lottery tickets.

Sales have fallen as much as 10 percent in some states -- a reflection of the economic downturn and lack of a big jackpot in the two main games, Powerball and Mega Millions.

"What we have found with lotto tickets is that they are heavily dependent on the jackpots offered," said Mike Mueller of the South Dakota Lottery, where sales are down 6 percent.


<p>A cashier hands a customer a Mega Millions lottery ticket in New York, March 6, 2007. REUTERS/Eric Thayer</p>