Maryland Lotto Brings Home the Bacon

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The Maryland Lottery continues to bring home the bacon – for the 15th year in a row it saw an increase in sales. The Lottery brought in $1.795 billion during fiscal 2012, a seven percent rise from 2011. The state is trying to figure out how and why the lottery is doing so well, what they’re doing right so they can keep doing it.

As it turns out, there is some fascinating psychology behind the economics of gambling. A state’s economic situation plays a big part in its lotteries. On one hand, people are more inclined to spend when the economy is good – they throw more when they have a lot of it to throw. But tickets also have a strong pull for those with lower incomes or who have run into tough times, because people see the lottery as an easy way to make a lot of cash. The occasional jackpot, like the three anonymous schoolteachers who just won $656 million, reinforces these ideas and causes more people to buy tickets.

Even the types of tickets sold are differentiated across demographic lines. Wealthier and higher-educated types prefer jackpot-style games, while less educated, poorer people tend to buy instant tickets – presumably this too boils down to the immediacy factor.

I’d be curious to read about studies on the number of repeat players, to get a picture of how much addiction could be stimulating these increases.

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