Bad Economy, Desperate People Buying More Lottery Tickets? Not Really

The Great Recession is taking its toll all over the place. People are desperate to make money.

So they must be gobbling up lottery tickets, right?

Not so much, really.

Robyn Smith of the Texas Lottery tells Hair Balls that her organization hasn't seen much of a change in sales since the economy hit the crapper.

"Some people play more, some people play less," she says. "Unfortunately, we don't have a good answer on whether the economy is helping or hurting sales."

Gross sales of tickets are down slightly from a year ago, she says, but net profits -- the amount of money transferred to the state -- is up.

The lottery tends to make more of a profit on the big games that involve drawing numbers, as opposed to the scratch-off games. Two big jackpots in the drawing games helped spike sales a bit this year.

If you compare equal lengths of time in fiscal 2008 and 2009, the money transferred to the state has jumped by about $3.4 million. Which isn't all that much of a jump when you're talking about a total of $533 million. (And the 2008 figure of $530 million was a drop from the year before.)

The gross-ticket-sale figures have dropped 1.9 percent from 2009 to a similar period in 2008.

So are people getting smarter? Probably not, even though actual tickets sold are down.

"There are so many factors that go into it," Smith says. "It's hard to point to just one thing."

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