Top 10 States That Love the Lottery
It's no secret that Americans enjoy playing the lottery, and nowhere more than in these 10 states that spend the most per person on lottery tickets.
The average adult spends around $288.06 per year on lottery tickets, but in the highest-rolling states, residents spend about two to three times that much, according to U.S. Census data on lottery ticket sales and prizes.
Here are the top 10 states that spend the most per adult on lottery tickets annually, ranked from least to most.
10. South Carolina
Yearly lottery spend per person: $393.90.
South Carolina generated ticket sales of $1.52 billion in 2017. The money raised by the Lottery is distributed to higher education; almost $4.25 billion goes to scholarships.
South Carolina is one of a few states that allow lottery winners to stay anonymous without conditions.
Notable winner: An anonymous South Carolina woman won the $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot on October 23, 2018. It was the largest jackpot ever won by a single ticket worldwide. The winner chose the cash option of $877,784,124 million.
Yearly lottery spend per person: $405.91.
Connecticut lottery sales were nearly $1.15 billion in 2017.
The state's lottery was launched in 1972 and tickets cost just 50 cents. Connecticut was the fourth state to start a lottery.
Notable winner: William Mclaughlin of Danbury won a $25.8 million Connecticut Lotto jackpot on November 1, 2019. He chose to take the cash option of $21,365,302.
Yearly lottery spend per person: $413.81.
The Maryland Lottery contributes most of its profits to the state General Fund, which provides funding for education, health and safety services, with some money going to the horse racing industry.
In 1973, a man won the state's first $1 million prize (which would be $5.9 million now), at a "Millionaire Party" for 100 randomly chosen players. The winner fainted when his name was announced.
Notable winner: "The Three Amigos" were one of three winning tickets that split the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot on March 30, 2012, with each winner collecting $218.6 million.
7. West Virginia
Yearly lottery spend per person: $419.15.
West Virginia makes $6.1 million on ticket sales, much less than other top-spending states, but its per capita sales are still high.
The state pays the second-highest lottery winnings per capita in the country, $307.53 (Massachusetts is first).
West Virginia lets winners of over $1 million stay anonymous ... but there's a catch. Those who want to keep their privacy must take a smaller payout, giving five percent of their prize money to the State Lottery Fund.
At least the money's going to good causes, including education, seniors' programs, tourism, and state parks.
Notable winner: Jack Whittaker probably had the best holiday season ever when he won a $315 million Powerball jackpot in December 2002 - at the time, the largest prize ever won by a single ticket.
6. New Jersey
Yearly lottery spend per person: $434.98.
12 percent of residents play the lottery weekly.
The state's first lottery ticket was purchased by then-governor William Cahill in December 1970. He didn't win - "luckily for the future of the lottery," as one resident put it. The $50,000 prize was claimed by a widow who remained anonymous.
New Jersey now allows all lottery winners stay anonymous if they choose, under a law passed in January 2020.
Notable winner: Richard Wahl of Vernon won the $533 million Mega Millions jackpot on March 30, 2018. He took the cash option of $324.6 million, saying he would use some of it for charity work. In 2019 he purchased a damaged resort in Florida.
More recently, Michael Weirsky of Alpha in Warren County won a $273 million Mega Millions jackpot on March 1, 2019. Incredibly, he almost lost the winning ticket!
Yearly lottery spend per person: $515.17.
The lottery is just peachy, according to the five percent of residents who say they buy a ticket daily. Georgia had over $4.02 billion in ticket sales in 2017.
But one thing residents might need to work on is checking their tickets. In 2011, a $77 million Powerball ticket expired when no one claimed the prize! More recently, a $1 million Powerball ticket expired on February 4, 2018.
Notable winner: Ira Curry, a grandmother from Stone Mountain, won half the $648 million Mega Millions jackpot on December 17, 2013. She opted for the lump sum payout and received $173,819,742.50 before taxes. Curry said she chose her winning numbers based on family birthdays and the number 7. The other winner was delivery driver Steve Tran of California.
4. New York
Yearly lottery spend per person: $538.24.
New York had lottery sales of $10.29 billion in the 2018-19 financial year. All lottery profits go to funding the state's K-12 education. The state also pays the fourth-highest amount nationally in lottery prizes, $234.47 per capita.
The Empire State ranks number one in total dollars spent on the lottery. However, due to population differences between states, looking at spending per adult indicates which states have more active players.
New York wasn't the first state to start a modern lottery - that was New Hampshire in 1964 - but its Lotto game is the oldest in the country, launched in 1967.
Notable winner: A $437 million Mega Millions jackpot was won on New Year's Day 2019 by a group of 23 coworkers from Long Island who split the $262.2 million cash option.
Although the governor had just vetoed a bill to allow lottery winners to stay anonymous in New York, the winners successfully kept their identities private by claiming via a company, New Life 2019, LLC.
Yearly lottery spend per person: $616.74.
Folks in Delaware spend a lot per head on the lottery, but 38 percent said they'd never purchased a lottery ticket. So who's buying them all?
The state's Lottery, which started in 1975, distributes revenue to the state's General Fund, with the money going to state services like education, policing, and health. The Lottery is the fourth-largest contributor to the state's coffers.
Delaware ranks 24th in the nation for the amount of lottery revenue it pays back to players as prizes, at $114.45 per capita.
The Delaware Lottery also has the highest operating costs per person of any state, $53.51 per capita in fiscal year 2016. Oregon is the second-highest at $24.71.
Delaware is one of the few states where lottery winners can stay anonymous without any strings attached.
Notable winner: A Delaware ticket won a $121.6 million Powerball jackpot on December 17, 2016. The ticket was bought in Selbyville and the anonymous winner chose the $72.15 million lump sum payment.
2. Rhode Island
Yearly lottery spend per person: $626.11.
The nation's smallest state has a big love for the lottery, but is the affection returned? Rhode Island is number two in the country in lottery spending, but second from the bottom in the amount of lottery money given as prizes: $157 million.
However, players will surely be happy that the state tops the nation in the amount of lottery proceeds it spends on state needs: $349.71 per capita, much higher than the U.S. average of $71.03.
The proceeds from the state's lottery go to the General Fund, contributing to education, health care, safety and the environment.
After starting its own lottery in 1974, Rhode Island was one of the original five states, plus Washington D.C., that formed the Multi-State Lottery Association. In 1988 the organization launched the game that later became Powerball. Today the Association also administers Mega Millions.
Notable winner: 81-year-old Louise White, of Newport, won a $336.4 million Powerball jackpot in March 2012. At the time it was the third-largest Powerball prize ever.
Yearly lottery spend per person: $933.33.
Massachusetts is in no danger of losing its top ranking as the most lottery-loving state in the country - on average, each resident drops over $300 more on tickets per year than Rhode Island. 5 percent of Massachusetts residents say they play every day, and the state had lottery sales of $5.09 billion in 2017.
Massachusetts players benefit from a 71.9 percent prize payback ratio - that's the percentage of ticket sales that are paid back to players in winnings. The payback ratio equates to approximately $564.07 per adult.
The Massachusetts Lottery is also proud that they were the first to offer scratch-off tickets. In 1974, "The Instant Game" gave players the chance to win a top prize of $10,000.
Notable winner: In August 2017, Mavis Wanczyk, of Chicopee, won what was at the time the largest single-ticket U.S. lottery prize ever, a $758.7 million Powerball jackpot. The hospital employee quit her job after she won.
Eastern States Spend the Most on the Lottery
What do these lottery-loving states have in common?
They're concentrated along the East Coast, with five in the Northeast, and the remaining five in the South Atlantic region.
Maybe this isn't surprising, because playing the lottery has a long history in the East, going back to colonial America.
Eastern states were also the first to launch modern lotteries, beginning with New Hampshire in 1964. New York started its lottery in 1967, which was so successful that 12 more states followed in the 1970s: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Part of this rapid growth in Eastern lotteries was due to the "domino effect" - states whose neighbors have the lottery are likely to launch one themselves to avoid losing revenue across borders.
If you've ever wondered why it seems like the East Coast states hit more jackpots than other areas, check out this article on why some states seem to win the lottery more than others.
More High-Spending Lottery States
These states didn't quite make it into the top 10, but according to U.S. Census data they're still in the top 22 states with the highest annual lottery purchases per adult. Ranked from low to high, they are:
- Tennessee: $264.27
- New Hampshire: $265.50
- Missouri: $268.69
- Kentucky: $269.91
- Virginia: $286.86
- North Carolina: $287.25
- Illinois: $287.42
- Ohio: $312.06
- Oregon: $313.44
- Florida: $353.77
- Pennsylvania: $367.88
- Michigan: $388.97
States That Spend Least on the Lottery
On the other end of the spectrum, which states play the lottery least?
The most frugal state when it comes to lottery tickets is North Dakota, with an average of just $46.72 spent per adult per year. That's about 5 percent of what Massachusetts spends!
Montana residents also pinch their pennies, spending $61.18 a year, while Oklahoma also sticks to a tight budget and spends $70.79 annually.
Louisiana is last in the nation in prize payback ratio - just 51 percent of its lottery ticket sales were paid back to players as prizes. North Dakota was barely higher at 51.8 percent.