The Lottery Sucks - A Comprehensive Lottery Report
In many ways, the lottery is one of the most baffling forms of gambling out there. If you're reading this site at all, then chances are you're interested in the best possible gamble at the best possible odds, and the lottery is not that.
This page will answer the question: Just how bad is the lottery? By doing a full state-by-state analysis of the returns to player on general types of lottery games. Covid-19 resulted in a major hit on lottery revenues for the most recent calendar year to this writing, and we also want to analyze the different state returns on an apples-to-apples basis, so we will be using the closest lottery report, when possible, that does not extend past the year 2019.
The one true thing about the lottery is that it is probably the only form of gambling where, on occasion, a player might win as much as a few hundred million dollars. Of course, even that only applies to the national state-linked lotteries, such as Mega Millions and Powerball which, as you will soon see, have worse returns than the other forms of lottery---which themselves are pretty awful.
Picture if you will an individual putting a $100 bill into one of the instant ticket dispenser machines and think of it as a really putrid reverse ATM! Could you imagine if you went to the ATM, withdrew money and were only given a little over half of the amount that was deducted from your account? That's basically what these lottery machines are, except you're putting cash in.
NOTE: There are a few states that have online lottery sites now at which people can create an account, make deposits and play instant games, but thankfully, this is not the norm for the time being. For that reason, states with this form of lottery may be mentioned, but will not be included in the final table---which will consist of instant ticket, "Scratch-Off," and Drawing ticket revenues.
Methodology And Highlights
Once again, the goal is to get as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as possible, but lotteries have different fiscal years, so we will attempt to use the most recent year ending no later than December 2019 for which data is available.
Highlights might be included for such items as the return-to-player for individual instant ticket denominations, but these are only rarely reported, so the final table will include only the totals for instant and drawing tickets, the return-to-player on those, the return percentage and the average loss per player for each form of lottery.
One common thread to look for is that states with Commercial Casinos will frequently have a lower loss per resident than states with just a lottery. This will especially be true in states for which casinos are readily (geographically) available to most residents.
States with Limited Video Lottery, such as West Virginia, will have a loss per resident in the table that includes this limited video lottery, but this will be noted by an asterisk on the table. Additionally, we will also put a note for the loss per resident that includes only instant tickets and drawing tickets.
If you read through all of this and find yourself still wanting to purchase lottery tickets, while this writer doesn't believe in, 'luck,' he will say, "Good luck." You're going to need it. It would probably be more efficient just to take half of whatever you were going to spend on the tickets and flush it down the toilet.
For the time being, and including the time period being reported on this page, the State of Alabama is one of only a few to not have a state lottery.
All of that could be changing as a bill has recently passed the house that would allow the voters in the state to decide whether or not they want a lottery, as well as some limited forms of casino gambling.
There still needs to be a vote on the measure in the state house, but the Senate has similarly passed a bill that detailed the rudiments by which the lottery would be structured. Any Commercial Gambling to come into the state would also be able to be enjoyed by Tribal locations within the state. Generally speaking, the only Native American casinos that require a compact with an individual state are in those states that do not have commercial casinos, or, if the tribe is offering something not offered in state commercial casinos.
Keep in mind that the Alabama Legislature is NOT unilaterally making the lottery and casino gambling legal. The measures before the Legislature right now simply create a Constitutional Amendment that will enable the public to vote on these things, so we would say to stay tuned for a vote on it later this year (2021) at the absolute earliest.
The State of Alaska is another one of five states that did not have a state lottery during this time. Currently, there is something of a limited charitable lottery that takes place within the state, but it does not seem to be conducted by the state itself. The way the current lottery works is essentially akin to a 50/50 raffle that takes place weekly.
Beyond that, the only forms of gambling that are expressly legal in the State of Alaska are Charitable Gaming and limited Tribal Gaming. Charitable Gambling consists of Bingo, Pull Tabs and occasional, "Monte Carlo Nights," which are limited in the number of such events that an organization may have annually. Tribal Casinos are not the full scope of gambling that they are able to offer in many other states, so they also consist almost entirely of Bingo and Pull Tabs.
NOTE ON TRIBAL GAMING: For those who are wondering, in general, all forms of gambling (except lotteries) that are offered by an individual state are automatically allowed to be offered by the tribes. This was true even in Wyoming, where the four Tribal casinos have, "Vegas-Style," Class III gambling. While Wyoming does not have any form of Commercial Casinos, All casino games are legal for social purposes. The result of that was the Northern Arapaho Tribe deciding that, by the letter of the law, they could have any form of gambling they wanted.
The State of Wyoming would go on to sue the Northern Arapaho Tribe on the grounds that the games permitted under social gambling laws were NOT commercial, and therefore, did not apply to this Federal ruling. The State of Wyoming lost.
Tribes in other states, such as Oklahoma, have created compacts with the individual states to allow for forms of gambling that are otherwise illegal in the state---such as Commercial Casinos. In these cases, the states are free to enter into what is known as a, "Compact," with the tribes with the terms agreed to by both parties.
In states in which there is no gambling compact with tribes then, quite simply, Tribal Casinos, or, "Casinos," in the state of Alaska, may only offer whatever forms of gambling are otherwise legal within the state.
In any event, Alaska does not have any applicable lottery revenues.
Arizona is an interesting case because 2019 was a record Fiscal Year for them, but believe it or not, they were one of the few states for which 2020 was even better!
Once again, the reason that we are using 2019 numbers for this page (when possible) is that 2020 was an unusually tough year for most lotteries due to Covid-19. It should come as no surprise that the states with the tighter mandates on mask-wearing, social distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses would see state lotteries having a much tougher year than usual.
That is particularly true in states such as Pennsylvania for which everything but essential businesses were closed for about three months. Additionally, indoor dining was not allowed during the month of December, 2020, which is the biggest month in the restaurant industry due to all of the Christmas shoppers.
Anyway, the shutdowns impacted not only peoples' wallets, but the Pennsylvania shutdowns were actually so broad as to shut down many lottery retailers! While gas stations and grocery stores were, of course, open---lottery tickets are also sold by liquor stores (which were briefly completely closed and then closed to customers coming in for a bit), restaurants, bars and the casinos. Anyway, these closures and the economic uncertainty created within the state due to the more general shutdowns (furloughs, terminations) resulted in a terrible year for the lottery.
Arizona was one of the only states not to have as big of a problem in this regard as 2020 beat 2019, which to that point, had been the lottery's record year.
Putting that aside, let's take a look at the numbers.
The first thing to note is that 2019 was the first year that the Arizona Lottery exceeded the threshold of a billion dollars in sales, so that was quite an exciting year for the lottery department, but probably not so much for the residents who lost some 50% of their money to the lottery. According to the report, the Arizona Lottery is required to have an overall return to player of at least 50%, so it's very likely that we will see instant games offset the poorer returns of national lotteries Powerball and Mega Millions--in practice, this usually happens anyway.
From the report (Page 24):
The Lottery is required to return no less than 50% of annual revenues as prizes and to spend no more than 18.5% of annual revenues on Lottery operations (including retailer commissions). Remaining funds are statutorily dedicated and transferred to various state beneficiaries. The following chart provides a high-level breakdown of Lottery funds expended for FY 2019:
The chart shows a total prize expense of 65.6% of all of the lottery's revenue, which actually makes this one of the better state lotteries, as you will be able to compare in the table that appears on the bottom of this page. There are a few reasons for this better than average overall return:
- Arizona, as mentioned, MUST get overall lottery return-to-player to at least 50%, which means they must err on the side of caution with their instant tickets and in-state games as they have to bring up the overall revenue that will be dented by Powerball and Mega Millions as both games return less than that.
- You will be able to compare this in the Table below, but on a percentage of revenue basis, you will see that Powerball and Mega Millions (and, really, drawing tickets in general) are a lower percentage of Arizona Lottery revenues than is the case in many other states.
- Instant, "Scratch Tickets," specifically, make up nearly 75% of all lottery revenues for Arizona during this Fiscal Year. While all forms of lottery are terrible bets, except in exceptional and highly unusual circumstances (feel free to Google search 'MIT Lottery') the fact is that Instant Tickets offer the best return-to-player of a terrible bunch. It's important to point out that does not include limited video lottery, which is better and comparable to casino slots, in states that have that form of lottery.
Unfortunately, Arizona is one of the few lotteries to not at least separate instant ticket prizes from drawing ticket prizes in its annual report, so while they do list the total amount that was sold in tickets, "Revenues," they list all prizes as a single line item.
Total ticket sales were $1,076,621,414, which, as mentioned, is safely over a billion dollars in total sales. Total prizes were $706,491,066, so the total return to player, considering all games (because we have no other choice) was 65.62%.
Instant ticket sales were $750,278,323 and the lottery also has something called, "Instant tab," that accounted for $9,913,074 in sales. In total, $760,191,397 in sales were some form of Instant Games, which leaves $316,430,017 in total drawing ticket game sales, of which roughly 214M were either Powerball or Mega Millions.
Total losses to the lottery were 1076621414-706491066 = $370,130,348, which based on an estimated population of 7.279M, result in lottery losses of about $50.85/resident.
Arkansas is one state that conducts an annual lottery, but is otherwise relatively limited in other forms of gambling. Arkansas' Fiscal Year 2019 Lottery Annual Report is available here.
So, we will be using that.
Fortunately, Arkansas is one state that separates instant and drawing tickets on both a sales and revenue basis, so we will be able to do a full comparison of those games on a return-to-player basis. Arkansas also participates in some multi-state lottery games such as Mega Millions, Powerball and Lucky for Life, which usually have lower returns to player than standard drawing games, such as Pick 3, not that Pick 3 is terribly good. (49.9%)
Total lottery ticket sales amounted to $515,493,507, of which $407,825,514 (79.11%) were Instant Ticket sales and the remaining $107,667,993 (20.89%) consisted of sales of various drawing tickets.
Prizes paid out to players were $293,695,992 for Instant Tickets, thereby resulting in a return to player of 72.02% for those game types which, as bad as that sounds, is actually surprisingly good by state lottery standards! $56,240,230 was paid out to players on drawing games, thereby resulting in a return to player of 52.23% on those---which is obviously terrible, but right about the average for state lotteries and not unexpected.
Totaling these up, $349,876,222 was paid out in prizes against $515,493,507 in total ticket sales for an overall return-to-player of 67.87%, considering all games.
Total losses amount to $165,617,285, which based on an estimated population of 3.018M result in a loss per resident of about $54.88/resident.
Between Mega Millions and Powerball, those two games accounted for about $67,714,677, so the result of that is that those two games accounted for about 62.89% of drawing ticket sales and about 13.14% of overall lottery sales, which certainly has a negative impact on the overall return-to-player.
The Arkansas Lottery also lists drawing game prize returns by game type, so let's take a look at what games are returning what percentage with this little table:
|Natural State Jackpot||9,303,843||4,957,513||53.28%|
|Lucky for Life||3,211,636||1,632,505||50.83%|
***As it turns out, Fast Play is basically an instant ticket game, so we don't know why it is not listed with those. If you do not include Fast Play, then the average return of the lottery drawing games would be safely under 50%. We would probably have to disagree with listing Fast Play as a game distinct from other Instant Tickets, but that is what the lottery seems to do---perhaps to satisfy some requirement that drawing games return more than 50%, all told.
Our advice if you are thinking of playing Arkansas Drawing Ticket games is this: Take half of whatever you were going to spend and donate it to the charity of your choosing, then simply keep the other half of whatever you were going to spend. Cut out the middleman and the retailers!
Overall, this is a reasonably informative Annual Report. The prize breakdowns by game types, as well as for individual drawing games, are nice to have. Information obtained on the lottery website may lead one to be able to calculate expected returns-to-player for the individual Instant Ticket Games, as well as Drawing Ticket Games, if one so desires.
Perhaps the only piece of information missing from this annual report that we would like to see is a breakdown of Instant Ticket prizes/sales by the denomination of instant tickets sold. In the State of Arkansas, the cost of a single Instant Ticket could range from $1-$30 for the year in question, so it would be nice to know how much the cost of an individual ticket impacts the return of the game---which it can probably be expected to do in a way where increased price correlates positively with increased return--at least, to some extent.
Either way, lottery tickets remain the single worst legal form of gambling in this country and, not only is it legal, it is administered directly by the states! Instant tickets are only slightly better than Drawing Tickets, although, some people have a tendency to play many instant tickets at a time whereas they might buy only a single drawing ticket.
That said, the one thing we must give this lottery is that the instant ticket return percentage to player will stack up favorably when compared to some other states.
For California, we will be using the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2019 Annual Report, which can be found here.
As with several other states, California is a participant in multi-state lotteries, their own state drawing games and Instant Games. California has an incredibly large and very diverse population, but with that being said, residents of the state have a wide variety of gambling options. Virtually every form of physical gambling possible, with the exception of greyhound racing, is legal within the state.
Commercially, the state itself licenses and regulates card rooms, but full-scale Tribal Casinos are also located within the state's borders, so the residents have no shortage of outlets if it is their intention to gamble.
The only thing left to determine is whether or not this will have an impact on the sales of traditional lottery games!
Instant Ticket costs, for FY 2019, ranged from $1-$30 for the State of California.
The first thing that the lottery reports, at least in terms of what is of interest to us, is the total amount in sales and prizes paid out for the Fiscal Year. Total sales amounted to 7,388,050,316 and total prizes were 4,715,592,673 which thereby results in a return to player of 63.83%, including all games. The total losses on all games were $2,672,457,643, which based on a population of an estimated 39.51M, results in losses of $67.64/resident.
The next section that is relevant to us separates sales and prizes into the general game types of drawing tickets and instant tickets, which the lottery report terms, "Scratchers."
Drawing ticket sales totaled 1,526,370,543 with Instant Ticket Sales totaling 5,170,791,532 , Hot Spot Game totaling 313,779,077 and, "Daily Games," totaling 377,109,164. Please note, that in the chart on the bottom of this page, that Instant Tickets will include only Scratchers will other games categorized as drawing games.
Scratcher Game prizes totaled 3,587,479,416 whereas Drawing Tickets are no longer separated by game type and total prizes are reported of 1,128,113,257.
When we add up the different types of drawing games from above, we get total Drawing Ticket game sales of 2,217,258,784.
|Instant Ticket Sales||Instant Ticket Prizes||Instant Ticket Return to Player||Drawing Ticket Sales||Drawing Ticket Prizes||Drawing Ticket Return to Player|
As we can see, Instant Tickets have a return of less than 70% to the players while drawing tickets have a return that is barely over 50%. We will see that this is probably right around the average for state lotteries and California, obviously, operates on a pretty strong sample size considering its sizeable population and overall sales. In other words, California is a good example of the shellacking that lottery players can expect if they make the mistake of playing.
Other sections of the report are somewhat interesting, such as a breakdown of lottery players by age and ethnicity. As it turns out, the percentage of lottery players are pretty much exact when it comes to the race breakdown in the state, so race does not seem to be an influencing factor in whether or not people play the lottery.
Gender appears to be a very slight influencing factor in the State of California. While the state is broken down in a 50/50 split of men and women, men are slightly more likely (53%) to play the lottery whereas women only account for 47% of sales.
Age appears to barely be an influencing factor with the oldest residents of the state (16% population 65 or older, of which account for 13% of lottery sales) and the youngest residents of the state (13% of those aged 18-24 are in the population, of which 11% of the lottery sales come from that age range) being slightly less likely to play. 35-44 is the age most likely to play, relative to their population percentage of 18%, they account for 21% of lottery sales in the state.
In summary, race doesn't matter, age barely matters and men are slightly more likely to play the California State Lottery than are women.
This will come as no surprise, but 44% of the state is employed full-time and they represent a disproportionate percentage (52%) of lottery players. If nothing else, the only surprise would be that they do not represent an even greater percentage of lottery players than that.
Contrary to what might be popular belief, those with an income of under $30,000 are less likely to play the lottery, of course, they probably shouldn't be playing it at all and should definitely not account for any meaningful percentage of lottery players, though they do. In terms of lottery sales, those with an income between $30,001-$50,000 account for lottery sales directly relative to their percentage of the population. Those with an income of $50,000, or more, play the lottery at slightly higher rates than those of other income levels.
We would probably expect the results of the California demographic report to roughly carry across to other states given that the populace of California represents a pretty strong sample sizing. To wit, slightly over 12% of the United States' entire population lived in California in 2019, so the California results can be assumed to be statistically meaningful.
The annual report for the Colorado Lottery for Fiscal Year 2019 was a bit tougher to find, but we managed to track it down here.
For whatever reason, they do not seem to have an easy to find link to this via the lottery's website.
As can be found in the report here:
Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) Section 44-40-111(9), requires that no less than 50% of the total revenue from sales of lottery tickets be for prizes. The legislation also provides guidelines for distribution of net proceeds to beneficiary agencies. Article XXVII of the Colorado Constitution states that "net lottery proceeds" (that is, proceeds after the payment of prizes and lottery expenses and a reserve for future operations) are to be distributed to the Conservation Trust Fund within the Department of Local Affairs, the Division of Parks and Wildlife within the Department of Natural Resources, and the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund (GOCO). The amount distributed to GOCO is limited by a constitutional cap, which was calculated to be $68.5 million for the year ended June 30, 2019.
Colorado is another example of a state for which the return to player must be at least 50%, but once again, that's for the lottery overall. When it comes to multi-state games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, those games may individually return less than 50% as long as the overall return to player from the state lottery meets or exceeds 50%.
Instant tickets in Colorado have an even greater price range than most other states! Instant tickets start at $1, which is expected, but may cost as much as $50 per ticket! Instead of buying a $50 instant ticket, it might be more efficient to simply pull a $20 bill out of your wallet and burn it. The good news with that is that you will probably save yourself $30 that way, by comparison.
Fortunately, the Colorado Lottery lists product sales and prizes by individual game types, except Instant Tickets are listed as one line item. For this reason, we will be able to take a look at the return to player for each general type of drawing game for Fiscal Year 2019.
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
|Cash 5 EZ Match||3,041,876||1,777,359||58.43%|
|Lucky for Life||16,951,078||10,171,758||60.01%|
In total, Drawing Tickets accounted for $236,369,644 in sales and $117,698,984 in prizes, thereby resulting in a return-to-player of 49.79% on those. That's worse than most state lotteries but is easily explained by how high of a percentage these drawing tickets are of the game types Powerball and Mega Millions.
Of course, without instant tickets, the Colorado Lottery would actually be violating the law on a minimum return of no less than 50%, so that's pretty awful!
In total, residents lost $262,840,467 to the Colorado State Lottery, so based on an estimated population of 5.759M, the loss per resident to the lottery was $45.64.
Compared to other states, there are a few factors at play here. The first factor is that, despite being a borderline Liberal state with a few big cities, much of Colorado's population is rural with some out in the mountains. Colorado also has no shortage of other forms of gambling, with some casinos, such as those located in Black Hawk. Colorado is also 1.4 years younger, on an average resident basis, compared to the United States as a whole, so you probably have some younger people there who are slightly less likely to play the lottery.
Maybe the residents are also smart enough to know that the lottery is a PUTRID bet, after all, Colorado is one of the more educated states, on average. Not only is the lottery a terrible bet, but Instant Tickets return somewhat less, on average, compared to the other states in the country. Why are instant tickets so bad here? No idea. You'd think 30% would be a strong enough hold for the lottery, but apparently, they want a little more than that.
There's good news and bad news. The good news: If you were wondering how much the Colorado State Lottery paid out in employee sick leave for Fiscal Year 2019, that's in there and all you need do is go look. The bad news: If you want to know how much each denomination of drawing ticket returned to player, that information is not in there, but in fairness, most lottery reports don't state that information.
Either way, a more useful use for funds being spent on the lottery would be to go find a homeless guy in Denver and buy him a bottle of alcohol. Granted, that won't help you very much, but at least a product that is useful to someone is being purchased.
Fortunately, the 2019 Annual Report for the Connecticut State Lottery is available here:
So, we will be able to gather our information from that.
The first thing to note is that Connecticut is another example of a state that participates in the multi-state linked jackpot lottery games with terrible returns to player. On the instant ticket side of things, Connecticut instant ticket prices ranged from $1-$30 for the relevant Fiscal Year.
Conveniently, the Connecticut State Lottery separates ticket types and prizes by type of game, although, you have to go digging for that information. The main report separates sales by game type, but lists prizes as a separate line item. In any event, we can look at the return to player for each type of game, which we will do below:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
|Play 3 Night||72,253,000||37,311,000||51.64%|
|Play 4 Night||72,656,000||29,791,000||41.00%|
|Play 3 Day||54,460,000||32,350,000||59.40%|
|Play 4 Day||50,328,000||23,472,000||46.64%|
|Lucky for Life||18,872,000||13,052,000||69.16%|
Total Sales were 1,267,592,000, of which 736,443,000 were instant ticket sales, leaving a total of 504,149,000 in total drawing ticket sales. Total prizes were 800,238,000, of which 516,523,000 were Instant Ticket prizes, leaving a total of 283,715,000 in Drawing ticket prizes.
Overall, drawing tickets had a total return-to-player of 56.28% on all Drawing Tickets.
In total, Connecticut residents would lose $467,354,000 to the Connecticut State Lottery. Based on an estimated population of 3.565 million for 2019, total losses to the lottery, on a per resident basis, were $131.10.
The losses are more than the average loss per resident that a few other states for a couple of different reasons:
- The State of Connecticut has a Keno Lottery game that seems to be pretty popular. In fact, if we consider it a drawing game (which, really, it is) then it is Connecticut's most popular drawing game. Residents of the state would lose more than 35 million on that game alone! Specifically, each Connecticut resident lost an average of over $10 to this game alone.
- Connecticut simply doesn't have as many gambling options as other states. The Native American casinos Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are there, and there are a few small card rooms, but most residents aren't particularly close to much in the way of physical gambling. That might also explain the popularity of their Keno game, at least, compared to other states.
- Connecticut is fifth of the U.S. States for median household income, so despite the fact that it is one of the more expensive states to live in, residents there tend to have some in the way of disposable income...so they dispose of it, and quickly, by playing the lottery.
As we saw with the California statistical analysis, it's actually the more well-to-do, meaning those with household incomes of $50,000, or more, per year, who are slightly more likely to be lottery players. Connecticut is an example of a state with a higher proportion of such situated people than many other states, so it stands to reason that they get a good bit of lottery play from this demographic, compared to other states.
In any event, if you were to go to Nevada...or any other state with casinos, no machine game in those casinos would be permitted to return as poorly as the single best Connecticut Lottery game, that being Instant Tickets. In other words, the lottery offers returns-to-player that would be flatly illegal in any other context, so keep that in mind next time you are thinking about buying a ticket---the best that you can get is worse than the worst that you can get anywhere else.
Unfortunately, this lottery report does not separate Instant Ticket sales v. prizes by the denomination of the Instant Ticket being played, but then, most lottery reports do not do that. Still, it would be nice information to know.
The Delaware State Lottery is another example of one that participates in multi-state drawings, such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Delaware is also a little unusual in that the Lottery deals with many things, including the fact that casinos operate through them, and they also have a Sports Lottery. Fortunately, the annual report, which can be found here.
Separates Traditional Lottery types (Instant and Drawing) from the other lottery operations. In the table below, we will list the lottery loss, per resident, based on these traditional types of lottery, as well as in total.
The only thing that will not be included in the lottery loss/resident is revenues that are attributable directly to the casinos in terms of operations that have nothing to do with the lottery itself, such as table games.
In addressing Traditional forms of Lottery, we see that Delaware breaks down as follows:
|Instant Ticket Sales||Instant Ticket Prizes||Instant Ticket Return to Player||Drawing Ticket Sales||Drawing Ticket Prizes||Drawing Ticket Return to Player|
From this, we can determine that Delaware residents and visitors lost a total of $84,428,053 to the Delaware State Lottery in the form of traditional games, that results, based on a 2019 population estimate of 973,764, in a total loss of $86.70/resident to the traditional lottery.
The Delaware Sports Lottery is basically just sports parlay betting, but is administered through the State Lottery, and has an overall return to player of 83.51% for FY 2019.
The Delaware Lottery also regulates the video lottery as well as table games within the state's casinos. It would take some reverse engineering to get the average returns-to-player for those things, but what we can determine is that the lottery had 538,355,277 in total gross revenues for Fiscal Year 2019, which represents $552.86/resident.
As we can see, Traditional Lottery accounts for about 15.68% of total lottery revenues for the state, but once again, that's because the casinos are handled through the lottery department, as opposed to a separate Division of Gaming, or equivalent.
Player losses to the Sports Lottery totaled 26,156,699, so when added to the losses for Traditional Lottery, we come up with $110,582,037 in total losses to the lottery that do not include casino or video lottery gambling, which comes out to $113.56/resident.
Personally, I give the most credence to the $113.56/resident number because Delaware was one of the few states to avail itself of an ability allowed for by PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), prior to PASPA's abolishment, to be permitted to conduct a Sports Lottery. The difference between this number and the $552.86/resident is directly attributable to online gambling (which was negligible), table games in casinos and video lottery products.
Delaware is not the only state to handle the regulation of casino operations through the lottery department as the State of West Virginia does the same thing. However, this is fairly unusual, and most states have a Division of Gaming Enforcement that operates separately and independently of the state lottery department.
We can clearly see the sort of money, per resident, that states are able to rake in by expanding their gambling operations to allow for more forms of gambling, specifically in the forms of casinos and online gambling. States would also do well, such as Montana, Illinois and West Virginia have done, to have Limited Video Lottery Terminals (VLT's) that are permitted to operate in parlors and bars outside of the casinos. Not only is it good for employment numbers, but the states make an absolute killing on these locations in terms of revenue...which you will see when you compare them in the table below.
For some reason, the traditional lottery is awful, has terrible returns to player and is content to operate in no other way. As we can see from the numbers, however, more forms of gambing attract different types of players, which is good for the states' bottom lines. Even just factoring in the Sports Lottery propels the annual loss to the lottery, per resident, safely above that of the majority of other states.
The Annual Report for Fiscal Year Ended June, 2019, for the Florida State Lottery is available here.
So, that is what we will be using.
Briefly, Florida is a state that has a few different forms of gambling compared to other states. For one thing, there are a few Native American owned casinos scattered throughout the state, and Florida is also reasonably liberal when it comes to its social and charitable gambling laws.
Florida is well in the bottom half of median household income, but that's somewhat misleading, as Florida trends older than average with many of its residents having moved there for retirement. Florida is also a very touristy state, so while that's good for state cash inflow, jobs in tourism do not tend to be the best paying. We will have to digest the numbers provided by the lottery report to see how these things work together and how Florida compares to other states.
The first thing that we will note, in brief, is that total lottery sales were $7,151,236,000 compared to total prizes of 4,638,488,000, thereby resulting in losses to the lottery of 2,512,748,000, which is well over two and a half BILLION dollars for the Fiscal Year. Florida is quite a populous state with the estimate for 2019 being 21.48M, so we see a loss of about $116.98/resident.
The high tourism combined with the age and wealth range of those who would be somewhat more likely to play the lottery (based on the California report) combine to result in a greater loss to the lottery, per resident, as compared to the average state. This really comes as no surprise.
Tourism might not seem like a terribly relevant factor, but if people are visiting the state and disposing of their money anyway, some of whom might play the lottery (especially the multi-state drawings) in their home states. That being the case, it can be safely assumed that some of the money that goes to the Florida lottery comes from outside of Florida.
Of the 7,151,236,000 in sales, 4.9378B were in Instant Tickets, which had an overall return of 3.6295B, which is about 73.51%. Remaining sales were 2.2135B in Drawing games, which returned prizes totaling 1.0965B, for a total return-to-player percentage of about 49.54%.
Unfortunately, you have to go digging REALLY deep in the report, almost to Page 100, to even find information that would separate Instant Ticket prizes from those of Drawing Tickets. The sales of both products are separated throughout the report, but there is only one place in the entire report that states what overall prizes came from what general type of game.
Similar to most lottery reports, Florida does not break down the return in prizes against the sales for the different denominations of instant tickets, which can range from $1-$30. Another thing that the Florida lottery report lacks, which most other lottery reports have, is the prizes paid out for each individual drawing type game. The Florida Lottery Annual Report lists the sales for these games, a few times in fact, but does not separate out the prizes paid out.
In any event, Instant Tickets in Florida seem to have a meaningfully better return than those of most states, coming in at just under 75%. Drawing type games, on the other hand, seem to have a worse overall return, but that is most likely due to a high percentage of sales being on the multi-state games, which frequently return under 50% absent a few winners of second-top prizes than expected during a Fiscal Year.
In any event, just like almost anywhere else, Florida's lottery return to players are so bad that they would not be legal to have on a casino machine in Nevada, which must return no less to the player than 75% of all monies bet---most other states with Commercial Casinos or Tribal Casinos require an even greater return-to-player.
Despite the fact that Florida's instant ticket returns to player, at least for this Fiscal Year, were better than others...the Florida lottery is still one of the worst bets legally available to you anywhere.
The Georgia Fiscal Year audit for the period ending June, 2019, is available right here.
So, that is what we will be using for the purposes of this page.
In brief, Georgia has been generally restrictive when it comes to different forms of legalized gambling, but are slowly coming around. Despite the absence of Commercial Casinos, Georgia is one of the few states to specifically recognize as LEGAL, certain games of skill such as Banilla Games and Pace-O-Matic machines, so those can be found throughout the state.
Some of these games of skill are such that a player must make a relatively simple selection in order to assure the best possible prize on a spin (when winning is even possible), or to even win a prize at all. That aspect aside, the machines are very little different from any other slot machine with Pace-O-Matic games being perhaps the most unique. Other games tend to help the player make the right selection by lighting up the correct choice from the player's options.
The Georgia Lottery Report has a separate line item that serves to deduct, "Tickets provided as prizes," from ticket sales, so that's fair enough. We can assume that these tickets are not also being added to the amounts for prizes paid out, otherwise, why separately account for them to begin with? With that, we see that the Georgia State Lottery had total revenues in sales of 4.776B for FY 2019 compared to 2.12B in total prize payouts for a total of 2.656B in total losses to the Georgia State Lottery.
Based on a population estimate of 10.62M for 2019, the result is a loss, per resident, of $250.09
Our assumption here is that the lottery loss per resident comes as a result of there simply not being that many other forms of state licensed and regulated gambling for that Fiscal Year. If there were more casinos, then revenues going to traditional lottery would almost certainly be reduced, but the casinos (as they have in other states) would provide the state with WAY more than enough taxes on their revenues to cover it.
To wit, there is no state that is worse off because of casinos, at least, on the basis of tax revenues coming into the state via legalized forms of gambling.
Scratch ticket sales were 3.219B of the lottery's total sales of 4.776B, which leaves a total of roughly 1.557B attributable to Drawing Games, in total. (The disparity to total sales is because instant tickets awarded as prizes do not count towards either, we are also counting anything that is not Instant Tickets as drawing, though the lottery does not) Scratcher prizes totaled 2.072B, which results in a return-to-player of about 64.37% on Instant Tickets.
That's about all we are going to do with this report, because it is honestly a pretty terrible report. To its credit, it breaks down sales and prizes in paragraph form for each type of game, and it breaks down scratch tickets well-enough, but some other games count as drawing games whilst others do not. It would take some doing to figure out which is which.
Beyond that, while they list each of these individual games in paragraph form, they never compile this specific information into a table and it is also listed in different sections, rather than just having one section that lists everything about each individual game. The only reasonable conclusion one can come to is that this lottery report is difficult to read, by design.
Beyond that, they do not list Instant Ticket Prizes by denomination (though they do list sales) which is what we would be most interested in to see if there is a meaningful difference in the return percentages. Probably not. As far as the drawing games go, they are all bad and it's not worth listing them separately if they are not going to make it easy for us to figure out in the report.
It's particularly unfortunate because this lottery report has the most information on individual games, thus far, but is the worst written and compiled.
The State of Hawaii has no legal form of gambling whatsoever, which includes no lottery. Technically, they have one legal form...outbound passengers are allowed to play. They have no lottery, though.
The State of Idaho has its own lottery that participates in a few of the multi-state lottery games.
Other than the lottery, Idaho tends to be a pretty restrictive state when it comes to gambling. There are a few Tribal casinos, but the only forms of lottery sanctioned by the state in 2019 were pari-mutuel wagering, certain forms of charitable gambling and the lottery, of course.
We do not expect the lottery loss, per resident, to be terribly high compared to other states. For one thing, Idaho has a pretty low population, lack of population density (the residents are quite spread out) and doesn't have much in the way of big cities. Despite not having that many other gambling options, even the lottery outlets are not terribly convenient for many resident of Idaho.
But, we can't be sure without looking, so let's see the Lottery Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019, which can be found here.
There are actually a few different types of lottery in Idaho, which include drawing tickets, instant tickets, pull tabs and touch tabs, so we will list the sales for all of those:
Drawing Tickets: $68,799,711
Instant Tickets: $170,464,207
Pull Tabs: $1,944,618
Touch Tabs: $46,704,400
All sales not counting Drawing tickets total: $219,113,225, which we will count as instant tickets in our chart, as they are most similar.
It's also worth noting that Raffle Ticket sales are listed separately elsewhere, but adding them to a different listing for Draw Ticket sales reflects the total listed above, so raffles are treated the same as a drawing for general purposes.
Total prizes for drawing tickets, which include Raffle Prizes, were $34,283,682, which results in a return to player of 50.62% for all drawing type games.
Instant tickets returned prizes of $119,504,580, which reflects a return to player of 70.11% on those. Pull Tab prizes were $1,364,151, which represents a return to player of 70.15%, which is right in line with the returns from Instant Tickets proper. Finally, TouchTab Ticket prizes were good for $37,447,814, which resulted in a return-to-player of 80.18%.
For the purposes of our table below, all of these types of lottery sales will count towards Instant Tickets, as they are the closest in comparison, so we see overall prizes of $158,316,545 against total sales of $219,113,225 for a final return to player on Instant type tickets of 72.25%.
In total, $95,312,709 was lost by players to the Idaho State Lottery for Fiscal Year 2019, based on population estimates of 1.787M for the relevant year, the loss per resident to the Idaho State Lottery was about $53.34/resident.
Overall, this is a pretty good lottery report. Unfortunately, we cannot find any data as to the individual sales and prizes for the various instant ticket denominations, but that's usually the case. Our guess is that the various state lotteries do not wish to make it known that the high-end instant tickets are not meaningfully better, in terms of return percentage, than the lower ones. Besides that, would you rather lose 40% of $1 or 20% of $20?
These losses per resident do not place Idaho as close to the bottom (though they are well in the bottom half) of states, as we might otherwise have thought. The TouchTabs help boat the per resident loss tremendously, and without those, Idaho might well be near the very bottom.
The State of Illinois, in general terms, is quite open when it comes to gambling. In addition to some riverboat casinos, the state is also home to some other Commercial Casinos and has an expansive Limited Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) availability similar to what might be found in states such as West Virginia and Montana.
For that reason, we would initially expect revenues and losses per resident to be lower than many other states when it comes to the traditional forms of lottery, but it's possible that we will find ourselves surprised. The only way to find out is to dive into this.
The Fiscal Year Lottery Report for FY ending in June, 2019.
Unfortunately, this Lottery Report is completely useless and says almost nothing that would be of any concern to players. They do not even separate drawing tickets and instant tickets by game type, much less provide anything more specific than that.
The only thing that we can gather is that lottery sales for the year were 2,974,539,000 and total prizes were in the amount of 1,907,153,000, thereby resulting in an overall return to players of 64.12%, all games considered. The total amount lost to traditional lottery games was $1,067,386,000 which, based on an estimated population of 12.67M for 2019, comes out to a loss pre resident of about $84.25.
We would encourage players not to play the Illinois State Lottery, not only because state lotteries absolutely suck and the returns are terrible (this lottery being no exception), but also because information relevant to players such as what general game type (drawing, instant) returns how much in prizes should be considered the bare minimum of information that should be disclosed in an Annual Report.
It's possible that this information can be found elsewhere, but Annual Reports should be comprehensive, transparent and players deserve to at least know the house edge against them without searching around all over the place.
So, don't play any lottery---but especially don't play the Illinois Lottery.
The State of Indiana is more open to gambling than some might assume, believe it or not, they are home to some Commercial Casinos and are fairly unrestrictive when it comes to their charitable gambling laws.
The State of Indiana is also home to a lottery with a, "Comprehensive," (snicker) seven-page annual report for 2019 that can be found here.
The good news about this very short report is that, believe it or not, it has more information that might be useful to players than does the Illinois Lottery 2019 Annual Report. At least the Indiana Lottery states what prizes were paid out from what general type of game! Let's see what we've got:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player Percentage|
Okay, so we have 1,347,755,657 in sales less 859,997,715 in prizes for a total loss to the Indiana State Lottery, during Fiscal Year 2019, of $487,757,942. Based on population estimates of 6.732M for 2019, that results in a loss, per resident, of about $72.45.
Indiana is a state with a few larger cities, so the population density isn't totally lacking. In addition to that, Indiana's few casinos are pretty spread out throughout the state and are also not necessarily near the most populated areas. While there is technically a wide variety of gambling options in the state, they are not necessarily that accessible for all of the state's residents.
That being the case, it's no surprise that we see Indiana with a greater annual loss to the state lottery, per resident, than we might otherwise expect based on its demographics and gambling offerings. As we can see, the majority of states with more accessible casinos will have a lower loss to traditional forms of lottery than that which is seen in Indiana.
As far as the returns of the different general types of lottery games are concerned, we would conclude that they are right about what a person might expect and are not meaningfully different than the average. In other words, they are terrible and no casino slot machine operating legally anywhere in the United States could offer a return that is so bad.
It might surprise some people to know that Iowa is, overall, one of the most liberal states when it comes to gambling. In addition to Tribal Casinos and Commercial Casinos, the Hawkeye State does not even take a slice of Charitable Gambling revenues by way of a tax.
We will have to look into the information on the traditional lottery to see how it compares to other states, given the variety of gambling options within the state. We suspect that the lottery olds its own, but let's find out by taking a look at The 2019 Annual Report.
This is actually one of the better lottery annual reports because it is short and sweet! It consists of only 13 pages, but Page 12 has a good bit of what we want. It lists each individual game type, sales and prizes for that game type. With that, let's take a look at it:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player Percentage|
|Lucky for Life||5,427,678||3,111,848||57.33%|
Total sales from drawing tickets (does not include pull tabs) were $129,376,821 and total prizes from drawing tickets were $66,819,255 for a total return to player on drawing tickets of 51.65% on all drawing type games.
Total losses to the lottery include drawing games, pull tabs and instant tickets. The lottery counts promotional items as prizes towards players, and apparently has some sort of loyalty program, but we will not count these things because we would not know exactly where to apply them---so we are looking at just the games:
(250,642,094-166,890,489)+(129,376,821-66,819,255)+(10,876,605-6,805,266) = $150,380,510 in total losses by players to the traditional forms of lottery, as well as Pull Tabs. These losses are on an estimated 2019 population of 3.155M, thereby resulting in losses per resident of roughly $47.66.
It would appear that the residents of Iowa are not terribly inclined to play the lottery. We would ascribe this to a wide variety of other (better) gambling options being available to them as well as the fact that some of the residents are fairly rural, so there simply might not be a convenient lottery retailer to them.
In any event, it's the usual conclusion on drawing type games, which is that they are terrible. Drawing game returns are a hair better than some other states and a hair worse than others. Instant tickets are also right about the average.
In summary, the lottery is the worst possible legal way to gamble in Iowa and, as always, the worst possible legal way to gamble anywhere. If you ever see a bushel fire in the state, you could just as soon take 25% of whatever you were going to spend on the lottery, throw it in the fire, keep the rest and you'll have actually saved yourself some money!
Briefly, Kansas might not be the first state that comes to mind when people think of gambling, but believe it or not, the state is home to both Land Commercial Casinos and Tribal Casinos. Additionally, the state has a wide variety of charitable gambling locations, mostly Bingo and, of course, a state lottery.
The first thing that we can say is shame on the Kansas Lottery for not being more transparent! This is the best that we could find for Fiscal Year 2019.
If one wishes to obtain an annual report for a specific year, then this webpage has a number that you can call and theoretically get ahold of someone one day in order to do that. This is an absolute travesty in the internet age when, not only should this be public information, but it should also be easy to access as it is in other states.
With that, the only information that is available on this page is the total sales for the year of 2019 as well as the total prizes paid out, so let's work with what little we have immediately available to us:
The total sales were 295,282,190 with total prizes of 172,676,708, which results in an overall return to player of about 58.48%. Lottery players in the state would lose a total of 122,605,482 for the year in question, so based on a population estimate of 2.913M, the lottery total losses would amount to roughly $42.09/resident.
It's no surprise that the Kansas State Lottery does not see a huge loss per resident. Many parts of the state are quite spread out, so many people who might otherwise be inclined to play probably do not find themselves geographically convenient to a lottery retailer. For those who live in the more densely populated areas, such as Kansas City, Kansas, there are a number of nearby casinos, so the lottery is likely not the best way to go. Kansas City, Missouri (just across the river) is also home to a handful of casinos.
For those who live on the western side of the State of Kansas, if there are no casinos near them, they might be close to Oklahoma casinos, in many cases.
In other words, despite a small population and being relatively spread out, Kansans generally have better gambling options available to them than the sub-60% returns that are offered by the gamut of lottery products available in the state.
The lottery is quite popular in Kentucky and a good reason why is the absence of other, and more desirable (not to mention better returning) forms of gambling. Kentucky is arguably the biggest state for horse racing, but other than that, there are a few forms of legalized charitable gambling (such as Bingo) and not much else.
Despite the lack of other forms of gambling, Kentucky does have the expected state lottery department and its citizens lose quite a bunch of money to them. We will see this in the Annual Report for the Fiscal Year 2020.
We are using the 2020 Fiscal Year for Kentucky because it is the only annual report presently available on the Kentucky Lottery's website. We would prefer to use 2019 and attempted to go to the same URL substituting 2019 for 2020, but the page does not exist under that name. With no other immediately available choice, we will instead use the 2020 Annual Lottery Report information.
This one is short and sweet, consisting of a trim thirteen pages. Let's just hope that it is like some other lottery reports and packs a lot of information relevant to players in a small space.
Unfortunately, not really. The good news is that everything is at least separated into Instant Tickets, Drawing Games and iLottery Instant Play Games, which we will treat as drawing games for the purposes of the chart that appears at the bottom of this page. Okay, here we go:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player Percentage|
In total, Kentucky residents would lose an astonishing $304,977,000 to the state lottery for Fiscal Year 2020. The estimated population for 2020 was about 4.48 million, so the loss per resident was an average of $68.08.
Given the demographics of Kentucky, that might seem to be a bit high, but remember that there's not much else in the way of gambling for the state's residents. It's also sadly ironic that the best returning form of the lottery (iLottery Keno) has the least amount of play by a mile. More than that, Kentucky's iLottery Keno is the only form of lottery that the state has with a high enough return to player that it could legally be a machine in the State of Nevada.
It would still be too low to qualify for the minimum jurisdictional return requirements in most other states, though.
Anyway, let's hope that Kentucky gets some real casino gambling soon. We can be almost positive that many Kentucky residents go to bordering states with casinos, such as Ohio and Indiana. So, the question is: Why not keep that money in Kentucky instead?
Briefly, the State of Louisiana has every form of gambling you could possibly think of. They've got Tribal Casinos, Commercial Casinos, Racetracks, Charitable Gambling, Simulcast Gambling, Daily Fantasy Sports...you name it, it's there.
And, yes, of course, a lottery. The Annual Report for which can be found here.
Fortunately, for us, this annual report includes the statistics for both Fiscal Year 2020 and Fiscal Year 2019, which is the one we really want.
The overview includes the instant ticket sales, drawing ticket sales and overall prize expenses. Instant ticket sales were 225,573,998 and drawing ticket sales totaled 298,393,430 for a total of 523,967,428 against 285,330,406 in prizes for a return to player percentage of 54.46% overall (mainly low due to slightly more than half of the sales coming from poor returning drawing tickets) and player losses of 238,637,022.
Based on a population of about 4.649M people for 2019, the average citizen of the state would lose about $51.33/resident to these traditional forms of lottery.
This low number is due not only to demographics (Louisiana is one of the poorest states in the country), but also the myriad of other gambling opportunities that exist within the state in addition to the lottery. One can almost be certain that any revenues that might be lost that would otherwise go to the lottery are more than gained elsewhere.
For the year 2019, there were only a few different drawing games, so it's a bit surprising that the sales of those outpaced those of instant lottery a little bit. Pick 3, Pick 4, Easy 5, Lotto, Powerball and Mega Millions were the only drawing games available in the state.
Powerball and Mega Millions would also combine for over half of the drawing game sales in the state, so those in the state who do play the lottery at all tend to be attracted to the worst games available, and that shows up in the overall return to player percentage in the state.
Looking into the individual game type prizes, we see that instant prizes totaled 135,528,594 against the 225,573,998 in sales, thereby resulting in a return to player percentage of 60.08% on those types of games. That return is terrible, even by instant ticket standards, but it's nowhere near as bad as the return on the drawing ticket games in the state.
Drawing games in the State of Louisiana, in 2019, would return a total of 149,801,812 in prizes against a total of 298,393,430 in sales, thereby resulting in an overall return to player of 50.20% for drawing game types.
In both cases, returns-to-player this low would not be permitted on any legal slot machine, video keno or video poker game in the entire United States. The states won't be permitted yet, however sadly, it is the states who administer the lotteries.
What you could do instead of playing the Louisiana Lottery is convert whatever you would have spent on the lottery into $1 bills, then take 20% of those $1 bills, put them into a bucket and burn them. The fire won't last long, but it'll warm you up for a few seconds or minutes and the expected amount of $1 bills wasted will still be only half of what you would expect to waste buying those instant tickets. It will also be over faster.
There's really not too much in the way of gambling in Maine, though they do have legal horse racing, simulcast wagering and a couple of Commercial Casinos. Certain forms of charitable gambling are also legal.
Maine is home to a state lottery, so we shall see how the lottery does in light of these other forms of gambling as well as the fact that some areas of Maine are pretty geographically isolated from the rest of the state. Here is the Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019 from the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.
Maine might be the only state to combine these two departments! I guess drinking and gambling go hand-in-hand sometimes, so it makes a certain kind of sense.
The first thing that the report references is the different types of sales both by game type and by individual game. Let's take a quick look at those:
Instant Tickets: 224,635,254
Drawing Games: 68,217,582
Fast Play Games: 6,598,860
Unfortunately, the next section of the report has a single line item called, "Cost of Goods Sold," which, judging from the amount, includes all of the prizes. I don't know why lottery reports cannot just make it easy and list the overall amounts and those for every game, but there you go. We will have to go further down in the report to see if prizes are ever listed separately.
We are in luck!!! A later section of the report separates out all of the prizes by denominations, so we will be able to compare all of the games directly! Let's take a look!
|Game Sales||Game Prizes||Game Return to Player|
|$1 Instant-8,184,085||$1 Instant-5,025,982||$1 Instant-61.41%|
|Heritage Fund-1,852,878||Heritage Fund-1,134,686||Heritage Fund-61.24%|
|$2 Instant-25,202,894||$2 Instant-16,655,443||$2 Instant-66.09%|
|$3 Instant-24,301,032||$3 Instant-16,098,691||$3 Instant-66.25%|
|$5 Instant-67,891,895||$5 Instant-46,751,162||$5 Instant-68.86%|
|$10 Instant-44,511,030||$10 Instant-32,476,733||$10 Instant-72.96%|
|$20 Instant-22,516,540||$20 Instant-16,816,099||$20 Instant-74.68%|
|$25 Instant-30,174,900||$25 Instant-23,306,867||$25 Instant-77.24%|
|Instant Total-224,635,254||Instant Total-158,265,663||Instant Average-70.45%|
|Pick 3-5,394,851||Pick 3-2,698,992||Pick 3-50.03%|
|Pick 4-4,337,305||Pick 4-2,175,962||Pick 4-50.17%|
|Hot Lotto-0||Hot Lotto-0||Hot Lotto-|
|Lucky for Life-3,713,174||Lucky for Life-2,208,569||Lucky for Life-59.48%|
|Lotto America 2018-1,980,196||Lotto America 2018-989,649||Lotto America 2018-49.98%|
|Gimme 5-1,079,847||Gimme 5-572,329||Gimme 5-53.00%|
|Mega Millions-16,300,415||Mega Millions-8,615,907||Mega Millions-52.86%|
|World Poker Tour-1,250,226||World Poker Tour-784,846||World Poker Tour-62.78%|
|Drawing Sales-68,217,582||Drawing Total-35,173,407||Drawing Average-51.56%|
|FAST PLAY||FAST PLAY||FAST PLAY|
|$1 Fast Play-761,412||$1 Fast Play-465,181||$1 Fast Play-61.09%|
|$2 Fast Play-1,257,453||$2 Fast Play-854,615||$2 Fast Play-67.96%|
|$5 Fast Play-4,040,035||$5 Fast Play-2,774,884||$5 Fast Play-68.68%|
|$10 Fast Play-539,960||$10 Fast Play-398,158||$10 Fast Play-73.74%|
|Fast Play Sales-6,598,860||Fast Play Total-4,492,838||Fast Play Average-68.09%|
|Overall Average-66.13% (Excluding Heritage)|
First of all, we want to give major kudos to the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations for the State of Maine for their tremendous transparency in the Annual Report that highlights what game pays how much to the players. This is extremely illuminating information and should help instant ticket players realize that there is basically no winning.
That said, while we majorly appreciate the information, state lotteries clearly still suck and nobody should ever play them. That said, out of pure appreciation for the transparency, I will see if someone wants to go half on a $1 instant ticket with me next time I am in Maine.
For the purposes of our Table on the bottom of the page, "Fast Play," will count toward Drawing Games lottery. The total amount lost to the lottery in the State of Maine for Fiscal Year 2019 was $101,519,788 which, based on a population of about 1.344M for 2019, comes out to a loss of about $75.54/resident.
The losses to the State of Maine in the traditional lottery are certainly on the high end of average, on a per resident basis, but are nothing too shocking. It just seems like the lottery is a moderately popular way to gamble in a state that might suffer for convenient alternative gambling options.
Let's look at the Expected Loss by Instant Ticket Cost:
$1 Ticket: $0.3859
$2 Ticket: $0.6782
$3 Ticket: $1.0125
$5 Ticket: $1.5570
$10 Ticket: $2.7040
$20 Ticket: $5.0640
$25 Ticket: $5.6900
Obviously, the $25 ticket is the best ticket in terms of return percentage, but there is the fact that you're expected to lose more than the total that four different ticket price points actually cost. The only one that really stands out as a little bit of a, "Value," even though they are all absolutely terrible, is that you're 'Only' losing an extra $0.63 to go from a $20 to a $25 ticket, which is a 12.6% loss relative to the extra five bucks.
These are all clearly very terrible bets.
Still, we would once again like to thank the Maine Lottery Operations for having a comprehensive, transparent and easy to understand Annual Report. Most other lottery departments try to hide the bath that people are taking even on the high-dollar instant tickets.
If you are thinking of getting someone a $25 lottery ticket this Christmas, our advice is this, get them a $20 Gift Card for the local grocery store instead and just keep the other $5. Not only will $25 = $25 in this scenario, but your $25 instant ticket that you would have otherwise gotten has an expected value of less than the $20 grocery store gift card.
Not everyone plays the lottery, but everyone eats.
Maryland is an example of a state to have expanded its gambling options to include Commercial Land Casinos relatively recently, and sports betting even more recently. In addition to those options, Maryland has had pari-mutuel wagering available in the state as well as various Charitable Gaming options and a state lottery for quite some time.
Maryland is a mix of mountainous, forestry and somewhat isolated rural areas combined with bustling urban areas, such as the state capital, Baltimore. Even beyond Baltimore, there are a few other reasonably populated cities dotting the map of Maryland here and there.
Given the state's demographics and geographical distribution, it's kind of difficult to know what to expect when it comes to the state's loss, per resident, to the lottery. One other thing is that the casinos spread throughout the state offer more attractive gambling options within a reasonable driving distance of most of its residents.
Bordering states such as West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania also have Commercial Casino options, so the Maryland State Lottery, in its traditional forms, have some serious competition to get the gambling dollars of the state's residents.
The 2019 Fiscal Year Annual Report can be found here.
Unfortunately, the Maryland Lottery doesn't seem to have too much to say about itself. This report limits us to some fairly broad numbers and is not as detailed as those of other states.
The lottery gives its total sales and sales for different game types, but does nothing to separate prizes into different game types and lists them as just one item. That's very unfortunate because it will be difficult to compare Instant Ticket return to players to those of other states.
Total sales were about 2.197B and prizes were worth 1.362B resulting in an overall return to lottery players of about 61.99%. It's a simple affair to break down the returns even without the numbers---Instant Tickets returns were horrible and drawing game returns were even more horrible; it's all the same.
835M dollars was lost to the Maryland State Lottery during Fiscal Year 2019, so based on a population estimate of 6.046 million for the year, we come up with a loss of roughly $138.11 per resident...you'd think they would be proud of themselves and want to report how badly their residents got tanned on the individual games!
In any event, the Maryland State Lottery sucks about as badly as any other and players should stop participating in it.
If you want, I have a better game we can play. We can bet $1 on a coin flip, except if you win, I only have to pay you $0.60. Your expected loss will only be twenty cents every time we play, so that is much better than buying a scratch-off ticket.
Massachusetts is another state that has opened up to the idea of expanded gambling recently, and the first of the Commercial Casinos in the state have opened just within the last few years. Of course, Massachusetts has had a lottery for as long as anyone can remember.
What you have with Massachusetts is a fairly densely populated state with much of the population being concentrated in the Boston area. However, there are alternative forms of gambling to the lottery not only elsewhere in the state, but in many of the states nearby. We will have to see what impact this has on the annual lottery loss per resident.
Which we will determine by looking at this report.
This report has the year-to-date, which would include June of 2019 and thereby complete that entire Fiscal Year. Both this and the Massachusetts Lottery Annual Report (which is hard to find) list the sales by individual game, but surprise, surprise, lists prizes as a single line item. Once again, this is an example of a lottery that doesn't even want the players to know what games to stay away from.
In any event, lottery sales totaled 5,508,564,000 and prizes amounted to 3,987,258,000 which would be a return to player, overall, of 72.38%. You think they'd be advertising the hell out of that, because that's REALLY high for an overall lottery return.
Of course, no legal slot machine in Nevada, or any other state, could return that poorly.
The reason why is fairly obvious, Instant Tickets and Keno combined for 85.9% of all Massachusetts Lottery sales for the period whilst Powerball and Mega Millions accounted for a total of 5.3% of sales. It seems that the residents of Massachusetts are mostly well-versed enough on gambling to avoid the absolute worst games.
Total losses to the Massachusetts Lottery during this period were 1,521,306,000, which based on a 2019 population estimate of 6.893M, would result in a loss to the lottery, per resident, of about $220.70, which is a HUGE number compared to other states. Massachusetts folks sure love those Instant Tickets!
I guess keep scratching, Massachusetts, even though you shouldn't. The good news is that your instant tickets and keno games must be paying better than those of some other states (which is another reason why the lottery should separate numbers by game type, in this case) because your overall lottery returns are higher than some states returns on just the higher paying Instant Tickets!
Michigan is one of the least restrictive states when it comes to gambling. The State of Michigan has generally allowed for every type of gambling there is and has had both Commercial and Tribal casinos for several years. Additionally, they were one of the early states to join the push for the abolishment of PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) that would allow states outside of Nevada to have sports betting.
Similarly, Michigan was quicker than most to jump on the train of legalizing state-regulated online gambling that operates through the casinos.
Even with all of this, Michigan continues to have a State Lottery, so let's see how those games are doing given all of the various other means of gambling throughout Michigan, as well as border states such as Ohio and Indiana. The Fiscal Year Report for the Michigan Bureau of State Lottery ending September, 2019 can be found here.
Let's take a look at some numbers!
The first thing that we will note is that lottery operating revenues were 3.8974B for the State of Michigan during that fiscal year and prizes were 2.3647B, unfortunately, they have subtracted unclaimed prizes before arriving at that number, so let us hope that the individual game numbers are listed somewhere else in the report.
In any event, Michigan residents would have lost about 1.5327B for the fiscal year which, based on a population of 9.987M, would reflect losses of about $153.47/resident. That's honestly a surprisingly high number given all of the other forms of gambling in the state but, despite the competition, the lottery seems to do better every year!
Believe it or not, 2020 was no exception, better year for the lottery than 2019! Take that, pandemic and economic uncertainty! You can't stop lottery players; you can not even hope to try.
The lottery breaks down the different game sales and prize types by general category, so we will look at sales, prizes and return to player below:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
Unfortunately, we do not know what the returns for, "Other Games and Promotions," are because they were apparently included in either club or drawing prize returns. We can account for all of the prizes with that total, so for some reason, they listed this separately in one section and not the other.
For the purposes of the final table, all games that are not Instant will be considered drawing type games.
Page 89 of the Financial Report breaks down ticket sales and prizes further by game type, but it's not of any particular interest for the purposes of this report. Feel free to take a look at that if you want to calculate the return for a particular drawing game, just do this:
(Drawing Game Prizes)/(Drawing Game Sales) = Return (Convert from Decimal to Percentage)
It's a pretty easy thing to do. The reason we are not going to list them all here is because most Instant Tickets (games such as Pull Tabs are now treated separately) remain listed as single line items for prizes and sales, and we would mainly be interested in a breakdown of return percentage by instant ticket denomination.
In fairness, Maine was the only state to break that down so transparently, at least so far, in its annual report. Feel free to read on to see if any others do it, or if you went straight to the Michigan section, go up and look at Maine for a sample of instant ticket returns to player by ticket cost.
Of course, our advice remains the same. If you plan on spending $100 on lottery tickets over the next year, instead pull out a twenty, tear it to shreds, and keep the rest. Believe it or not, you'll still be saving money overall.
Minnesota is pretty middle of the road when it comes to the gamut of gambling offerings available in the state. In addition to Tribal Casinos, the state's horse racing tracks are permitted to have poker and table games, though not slot machines. Additionally, Minnesota has an overall fundamentally fair and open set of laws when it comes to charitable and social gambling.
Of course, Minnesota is one of the states that is home to a state lottery. The state has some number of fairly urban areas, but the state of 10,000 Lakes also has some of its populace that are not really near much of anything. We will have to see how this plays out in the lottery numbers, which we can find here.
In the form of the Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report that ended in June of that year, so let's dive in!
The first thing that we find are Gross Receipts for that year totaling 595,435,875, of which 455,049,114 came out in the form of prizes, commissions and ticket costs. Unfortunately, that doesn't entirely concern the player, so we will have to dig deeper to ascertain how much the players actually lost.
We can find the prizes listed by individual game type further down, so let's go ahead and put that here, along with the returns to player:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
Okay, apparently the lottery also gets a negligible amount of revenues even outside of this, so we see a total of 636,810,253 in total ticket sales against 395,592,006 in prizes for an overall return to player of 62.12% and total losses to the lottery of 241,218,247. Based on a population estimate of 5.64M for 2019, the loss per resident comes out to a low $42.77.
It turns out that, in addition to the other forms of gambling available in Minnesota, as well as nearby states, residents simply don't seem particularly inclined to play the lottery. Good job Minnesotans!
In terms of percentage returns, Instant Tickets in the state are probably a little worse than average while drawing tickets are about average. It might be the case that the state doesn't sell a high percentage of $10+ Instant Tickets (which tend to pay over 70%, generally) when compared to other states, but that's speculation on this writer's part.
In any event, the right amount of annual sales to state lotteries should be $0, at least, until they make their games substantially better. In general, good on the residents of Minnesota for knowing enough to mostly stay away from this bad bet.
Mississippi has had State Commercial Casinos for a very long time, but the concept of a lottery within the state is an extremely new one. In fact, the lottery was not even authorized until the year 2018. It is for this reason that we will use whatever most recent Annual Lottery Report we can find for the state---they're decades behind the others.
Of course, we assume that the residents of the state would generally do well to stick to the many other legal forms of gambling, as we expect the returns for the Mississippi State Lottery to not be meaningfully better than those of other states, and therefore, awful.
Unfortunately, it appears that Mississippi has yet to produce an annual report for a full year of operation. There are quarterly reports, so just sampling from one of those, total lottery returns were less than 60% despite the fact that more than 90% of the sales were on Instant Tickets.
Simply put, the Mississippi Lottery appears destined to be worse than most.
Missouri has historically been one of the more liberal states when it comes to gambling and one of the first states to have Commercial, 'Riverboat,' Casinos, although, they did have some weird laws related to the maximum amount that a player could lose in one day, at one time.
Those laws are since gone and Missouri is home to just about any traditional form of gambling that a person can think of which, of course, includes a state lottery. This Annual Report.
Also covers Fiscal Year 2019, which is the one that we are interested in for our apples-to-apples comparison.
Missouri consists basically of the urban metropolis of Saint Louis, the large and spread out Kansas City, the capital of Jefferson City and a few other sizable towns. The rest of the state is basically just wide open land with a few small towns dotting the map here and there. I-70 runs the entire length of the state and connects Kansas City and Saint Louis.
The Missouri casino laws allowed only for, 'Riverboat,' gambling, but these were primarily just buildings built on a concrete slab on the river that obviously never went anywhere. They sometimes weren't even made to look anything like a boat, just a building on a concrete slab.
These casinos favored the bigger cities as they tended to be more in Saint Louis and Kansas City, because that's where the major rivers run through, so geographically, it made a certain kind of sense. Unfortunately for those in the corners or middle of the state, it meant that they aren't necessarily close to a commercial casino.
We're just going to have to dig into the Annual Report to see how this plays out in the loss per resident of the state, so let's go!
The first thing that we find is a simple summary that separates lottery ticket sales from total prizes, so we can use this to ascertain the overall loss to the Lottery for that Fiscal Year and then gather our loss per resident. Lottery ticket sales totaled 1,466,028,703 for the year and prizes were 1,015,091,349 for a total return to player of 69.24%. Total losses amounted to 450,937,354, which based on a 2019 population estimate of 6.137M, comes out to a loss of $73.48/resident.
Some states are way out of the ballpark of average, but Missouri is not one of them. With that said, they are certainly going to be in the top half of loss per resident to the traditional lottery.
The State of Missouri also has Pull Tabs, which we will account for separately in this section in return to player terms, but will be included in Instant Tickets for the chart at the bottom of this page.
|Instant Tickets "Scratchers"||914,449,548||666,811,269||72.92%|
Overall, Missouri has one of the better lotteries, as sad as that is. Lottery returns to player are better than average across the board, with Missouri Pull Tab returns rivaling the returns of many penny slot machines, so this is the first time a lottery product is being compared favorably to something in a casino.
With that said, even the much higher than average returning Instant Tickets would not return enough to player to be a legal slot machine in any state with casinos, so even though it's good by comparison, it's still really bad in the grander scheme of things.
If you're going to play this lottery, "Show Me," that you can at least stick to the reasonably returning Pull Tabs!
Montana is one of the best places in the country if you love to gamble! They have anything you can think of! Sports betting is run through the lottery, they have Tribal Casinos, they have Commercial Card Rooms, they have Video Lottery Terminal parlors and small casinos similar to West Virginia; you can even bet simulcast in Big Sky Country.
And, of course, they also have a lottery. Nobody's perfect.
With all of the various gambling outlets in the state, it would come as a surprise if traditional lottery does terribly well. Add to that an absence of urban areas and a relatively scattered, and sparse, population and we do not expect the lottery loss, per resident, to be terribly high.
The only way to know for sure, is to take a peek at the Montana Lottery Annual Report for the 2019 Fiscal Year, so let's get to it!
Conveniently, the main part of the report separates Instant Ticket revenues and prizes from Drawing Tickets, so we will do the same here:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
In addition to the fact that Instant Ticket returns are poorer than other states, Montana is one of the only states for which they are not meaningfully better than Drawing Game returns. With that said, Drawing Games return better than those of other states, slightly, but a disproportionate number of big winners could be making that difference given how low overall sales are.
The result is that total losses to the Montana Lottery for Fiscal Year 2019 amounted to $25,761,712, which based on a population estimate of 1.069M for the year amounts to an average loss per resident of $24.10. This makes it one of the lowest losses in the entire country, on a per resident basis. The main reason why is because, as mentioned before, residents have a wide variety of better gambles readily available to them.
Good on Montanans for being able to find the better bets out there. Here's to hoping that the loss per resident is $0 in a few years, especially with the terrible returns to player that this lottery has.
Overall, Nebraska is a fairly restrictive state when it comes to gambling. They have a few horse tracks, but most of those are in it for the simulcast and have only a few live racing dates per year, occasionally only one. The state is home to Tribal Casinos, but no Commercial Casinos and Nebraska doesn't seem likely to massively expand its gambling footprint in the state anytime soon.
Despite being otherwise hesitant to expand gambling, Nebraska has conducted a state lottery that was first authorized by the state's voters in 1992.
With all of that, the state does have a few other gambling options. Much of the population of the state is also fairly spread out, though there are a few minor population centers dotting the state. What impact will that have on loss per resident to the lottery:
We will find out by looking at the Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019, so let's get into it!
Unfortunately, all sales and prizes paid out are listed as total line items and are not broken down in any way whatsoever, so the result is that we simply don't have a whole heck of a lot to work with. What we do have is total sales of 192,125,860 against total prizes of 113,305,246 for an overall return to player of 58.97% and total losses of $78,820,614.
The population estimate for 2019 was 1.934M, thereby resulting in an average loss per resident of about $40.76.
Either way, it seems that most of the residents of the state are too smart to play the horrible gamble that is lottery games. We don't blame them! Let's try to get that loss per resident down to under a dollar by the end of the 2020's!
Despite being the first state with legalized Commercial Casinos, and the state that is borderline synonymous with gambling, Nevada lacks a state lottery.
Therefore, residents of the state lose a total of $0 to lotteries within Nevada.
This writer likes to think that the state would be embarrassed to offer games so awful!
However, this writer does understand that Nevada residents will sometimes go to border states to play Mega Millions and Powerball when the jackpots are high. All this writer can say is, "Stop doing that! The returns are usually still awful, especially after taxes, and you will almost certainly not win the big one!"
New Hampshire is simply a state in which most residents don't seem to care all that much about gambling. Simulcast wagering and live horse racing is legal in the state, but there are not presently any operators. While the state is near some others with Commercial Gambling, New Hampshire doesn't seem to care to have casinos of their own.
One interesting thing that can be found in the state is a wide variety of card rooms. Poker and some Table Games are considered, "Games of Skill," in the state, and that being the case, those are perfectly legal.
Even though the state seems otherwise unconcerned with gambling, it is home to a state lottery that has operated since the 60's, so let's see.
How that is doing and how much the average resident of the state lost during the Fiscal Year ending June 2019, shall we?
We shall, dear reader. That's what we are here for. I wasn't actually asking you.
We find that the state sold 250,477,088 in total scratch ticket sales over the relevant period, and since we are going to include Keno as drawing tickets in the table at the bottom of this page, we find that there were a total of 133,889,409 sold in drawing games tickets for total ticket sales of 379,853,528.
The New Hampshire Lottery also accounts for its racing and charitable gambling revenues and the number above also doesn't take iLottery into account, because iLottery is just listed as the New Hampshire Lottery's net win, so we don't really know how much was bet in total.
The Lottery later breaks down some sales and prizes by general game type, so we will do the same below:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
|Lucky For Life||5,606,632||3,312,360||59.10%|
In total, we see that all prizes come out to 240,811,693 against lottery sales of 379,853,528 for traditional lottery types, thereby resulting in an overall return to player of 63.4% and total losses of 139,041,835. Based on a population estimate of 1.36 million for 2019, we come up with an average loss, per resident, of about $102.24, which makes this one of the more played state lotteries.
As we can see, the multi-state mega jackpot games are the most terrible, but everything is pretty bad in the State of New Hampshire, as far as lottery goes. For what it's worth, the Instant Ticket returns are probably about average.
Individual drawing game sales and prize returns are listed elsewhere on the report, if you want to check those out, but these numbers are not listed by game or denomination of Instant Tickets, which is what we would be more interested in for the purposes of this page.
We will tell you what drawing game in New Hampshire is the absolute best: The one that you don't play.
Second only to Nevada, New Jersey is the state best known for gambling in the United States as Atlantic City has been home to Commercial Casinos since 1978, which was the year that the first, Resorts, opened to the public.
There have been off and on efforts to get casinos to be able to expand into the Northern parts of the state, but none of those have been successful as yet. Beyond that, there's not really much in the way of gambling in the state other than a few horse racing and simulcast locations as well as, of course, a state lottery.
Will people take their gambling dollars to Atlantic City (or other bordering states, such as Pennsylvania and New York) or do the residents of The Garden State still lose a ton of money to the lottery year in and year out? There's one way to find out.
And, that is by looking at the Annual Report for Fiscal Year ending 2019, so let's have at it!
The first financial page relevant to us simply lists overall sales and prizes that were paid out, so we see that the state had 3.482B in sales and paid out 2.087B in prizes for Fiscal Year 2019, which results in an overall return of about 59.94% considering all games and losses in the neighborhood of 1.395B. The estimated population for the state was 8.882M for 2019, so we can surmise that the average loss to the lottery, per resident, was about $157.06.
It turns out that New Jerseyians don't shy away from playing the lottery when they can't make it to Atlantic City. They must not have all realized that the online casinos that are legally available to them, and are tied to physical casinos within the state, offer much better games. Of course, the offshore online casinos mostly also offer much better games.
The fact of the matter is, you won't find as bad as 60% anywhere but the lottery---with exception to a few really stupid live keno games and equally ridiculous side bets, rarely.
The New Jersey Lottery, in painstaking detail, lists the sales of each individual game in its Annual Report...but it shows no such consistency in listing prizes, which are always reported as a single line item and are not even so much as separated into Instant and Drawing Games.
We're going to give New Jersey a hearty, "Boooooo," for making so much money through the lottery and not even having the courtesy to let players no which games are slightly less horrendous than the others. Of course, if it's anything like any other lottery, Instant Tickets will have the best return, though they will still be terrible.
I would tell New Jersey players to quit playing the lottery, but people from this state tend to be pretty assertive, independent and don't really like being told what to do. At least think about it unless they will disclose the prizes by game?
New Mexico has a wide range of gambling options, including Tribal Casinos. Additionally, Charitable forms of gambling include Bingo, Pull Tabs and Raffles. The population of New Mexico is sometimes concentrated in cities and sometimes spread out, depending on where in the state you are, though areas too far outside of the major cities tend not to be populated much at all compared to other states.
New Mexicans have no shortage of gambling outlets and live in a naturally beautiful state, so it's hard to say whether or not playing the lottery is high on their list of pastimes. It's more fun to get into arguments as to whether red sauce is better than green taco sauce, anyway, and costs less money. In order to find out how the lottery performed for the Fiscal Year 2019.
We will check out this Annual Report, for the Fiscal Year that ended in June, 2019. Let's get started!
Awesome! The first relevant part of the report (for us) lists individual game type sales as well as prizes, which lotteries term an, "Expense." Why an expense? Because the lottery is a pure business and you are a customer, a revenue source, state lotteries don't even look at you as players. Honestly, they probably look at those who purchase hundreds in lottery tickets per year as (redacted).
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
|Lucky Numbers Bingo||70,514||44,067||62.49%|
They have some of the worst Instant Ticket returns that you'll find anywhere! Even by lottery standards, 55.18% on Instant Tickets is absolutely abysmal. There are many state lotteries where even the $1 tickets exclusively do not pay that badly!
In total, the remaining $68,689,613 of tickets sold we will classify as Drawing Game Tickets, not that it makes much of a difference in this state. Those games had total prizes of $35,691,042 for a total return to player of 51.96% on those, all told. Drawing tickets might have been even better than instant tickets if residents could have stayed away from those multi-state jackpots.
Total prizes amounted to $77,040,374 against total sales of $143,630,735 for a total loss to the residents and lottery players from out of state of $66,590,361. Based on an estimated population of 2.097M for 2019, we find that New Mexicans lost an average of about $31.76 on a per resident basis.
The multi-state jackpot games are roughly as popular as they would be in some other states, but it is pretty clear that New Mexicans mostly have no interest in playing the other lottery games, at least, not compared to the interest in other states. Could it be because the games return terribly? Probably not, because all the lotteries do, the question is just one of extent, but we can hope.
It also doesn't help that New Mexico is in the bottom five when it comes to Median Household Income. Contrary to popular belief, and judging from the California numbers, it's only in the $30,000-$50,000 range that lottery players are proportionate to the population and those who make more than $50,000 are more than proportionally expected to spend on the lottery.
As it turns out, it's not a bunch of poor people always wasting their bottom dollar as people like to think. That certainly sometimes happens, but there are a great many disadvantaged people who tend to be more concerned with eating than buying a 55% scratch-off ticket.
Maybe we should all be more concerned with other people eating if we have that dollar to be spending on a form of gambling that returns as poorly as lotteries do. Charity is usually more rewarding to the giver when given directly, losing to the lottery will probably just make you feel bad instead.
The Empire State has the full gamut of gambling options available to its residents. Among these are racing tracks with simulcast wagering, commercial casinos, tribal casinos, charitable gambling consisting of Bingo, raffles and Las Vegas nights and yes, of course, a state lottery.
The better part of the state's population is densely concentrated in New York City, with other major cities, such as Buffalo, also in the state. Even though there are many different forms of gambling available to the populace, due to the population density, we would expect New York to be on the higher end of lottery loss per resident.
The only way to know for sure is to take a look at this.
This Annual Lottery Report also includes the data for Fiscal Year 2019, which is what we are going to be looking at for the purposes of this page, so let's get going!
The first thing that we find is that traditional lottery games brought in a total of 8.209B for Fiscal Year 2019, when compared to the 4.919B in prizes, we see that the lottery returned, overall, about 59.92% of all monies bet to players and that players lost about 3.29B to the state's lottery. The estimated population for the State of New York for 2019 was 19.45M, so we see that the average loss, per resident, was about $169.15, which is definitely on the higher end of the spectrum.
The report goes on to break down sales and prizes by game type, so we will now take a look into those and get the returns to player:
|Game Type||Sales (Thousands)||Prizes (Thousands)||Return to Player|
|Cash for Life||87,911||36,914||41.99%|
As we can see, total lottery returns are largely propped up by a high percentage of the lottery sales being instant tickets, which return roughly in line with lottery averages. Drawing tickets, overall, return about 52.19% to players, which is roughly where you would expect those to be. It would be sub-50%, except the Quick Draw game is saving the overall body of players from losing more than half of all monies bet on drawing games.
The amount of money that this state lottery pulls in is simply insane and should be much closer to zero. It's crazy to believe that so many people are pumping so much money into such badly returning games.
What would be better than playing the lottery? Take the money that you were going to spend on the lottery, set aside 20% of it, and throw it directly into Niagara Falls...you'll still have more money left over at the end than you are expected to end up with if you play the New York Lottery.
North Carolinians are pretty stuck for gambling options in this state that has historically been very conservative on expansion. There are two tribal casinos within the state, a fairly limited number of charitable gambling options and, inevitably, a state lottery.
The population of North Carolina, demographically, is a pretty good bellwether for the national average in most socio-economic respects, but one difference is that there are not many gambling outlets outside of the lottery, so we will now see if that shows up in the numbers by looking at this.
Comprehensive report that includes data for Fiscal Year 2019, which is the one we are interested in for this comparison page.
The first thing that we note is that the lottery had a total of 2,859,624,000 in sales against 1,845,287,000 in prizes. This results in an overall return to lottery players of 64.53%, which is better than others in the overall sense and is probably propped up by a positive proportion of instant ticket purchasing.
Alliteration aside, players found themselves losing a total of about 1,014,337,000 to the lottery for 2019, which based on a population estimate of 10.49M comes out to about $96.70 in losses, per resident. This will definitely put North Carolina safely in the top half of lottery losses per resident.
Later on in the report, the lottery will separate Instant and Drawing sales and prizes from one another, so let's take a quick look at that:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
Instant tickets probably return ever so slightly better than national average, though still terrible, while drawing tickets return right about the average of a hair over half of the player's money.
You can find some interesting information about the demographics who are found to play the lottery in the report linked above, if you like, but that's generally beyond the purview of this page. We already looked at it for California and were only interested in providing one example.
The report also lists sales more specifically by the different types of drawing games, as well as instant ticket price points, but does not offer any more specific information on prizes than what has already been offered here, so there's really nothing else of interest to us.
In any event, it's clear that North Carolinians like the lottery, but we here certainly hope that you get better gambling options one day as the returns for instant and drawing tickets in your state would not satisfy the legal minimum returns for any regulated slot machine in this entire country.
North Dakota has a reasonable number of gambling options available to its residents. In addition to tribal casinos, there are also horse racing tracks where pari-mutuel wagering and simulcast betting can be found. Beyond that, there are a wide variety of legal forms of Charitable Gambling, but of course, North Dakota is also home to a state lottery.
The population of North Dakota is both sparse and largely spread out, so if experience is any teacher and you have read this entire page up to this point, you're probably guessing that the average lottery loss per resident is going to be lower than many other states. We're guessing that you will probably be right, but let's make sure.
By checking the North Dakota Lottery Annual Report for Fiscal Year Ended June, 2019.
The first thing relevant to us is that total ticket sales amounted to 35,352,991 for the year in question against 18,240,852 paid out in prizes for a total return to player of 51.6%, which is putrid, even by state lottery standards.
North Dakotans would lose $17,112,139 to the lottery that year, which based on 2019 population estimates of 762,062, reflects losses of about $22.46/resident. Just as we suspected, North Dakotans are mostly uninterested in playing the lottery, though for many of them who otherwise might, they are not geographically convenient to a lottery retailer.
This definitely puts North Dakota in the running for the least lost to the lottery on a per resident basis, but you'll have to keep reading to see if anyone wants to take that distinction away from them.
Unfortunately, this lottery does not separate sales and prizes by game type whatsoever, so what we put above is about all that can be known from the report. The reason why, at least according to the report, is because they do their reporting based on actual results---which means that prizes are only counted if they have been actually redeemed. That could be one explanation for the poor overall return.
In a way, I still consider Ohio my home state even though this writer is a Pennsylvanian now. This is going to hurt especially because it is my experience that Ohioans are inordinately fond of traditional forms of lottery. I know this from the many times I have spent ten minutes just trying to put gas in my tank whilst waiting for people to purchase their tickets.
Ohio is pretty liberal when it comes to gambling, even though the operations from the state side are shady as all hell and just reek of sweetheart deals. Ohio is home to a few Commercial Casinos, which are wherever the state feels like deciding they are allowed to be, probably bought and paid for (in one way or another) by the original owners of those properties. Ohio is also home to a number of racinos, but won't shy away from moving the occasional horse track if a major casino company considers its present location an inconvenience.
Ohio had many locations in which a few, "Skill Games," could be found, but the state ran out all of those, except truck stops and a few other establishments are allowed to have them provided they only pay out in merchandise credits. You might find the occasional, "Games of Skill," mini-casino in the state, but that's mostly because the local police are choosing just to leave it alone, if that's the case.
Charitable raffles and bingo are perfectly allowed within the state, although, there is a need to apply for a license and associated license fees. It's easier to do in states such as West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as less restrictive, so you're more likely to see regular bingo operations in those states.
And, as mentioned, Ohio is home to a probably robust traditional lottery, so let's bite the bullet and see how much Ohioans are losing to the stupid thing here.
In this comprehensive Annual Report for the Fiscal Year ended June, 2019.
The first thing that we find is that ticket sales totaled 3,360,764,000, compared to 2,139,841,000 in prizes, so that is an overall return to player of 63.67%, which is better than some lotteries. Better than most, actually. Ohio residents would lose 1,220,923,000 to the lottery for that fiscal year which, based on the estimated population of 11.69M, comes out to losses of about $104.44/resident.
That's actually not as bad as I thought, but it's easily in the top tier of states for losses to traditional forms of lottery per resident and is definitely entirely too high.
The Statistical section of this report breaks down the sales and prizes for instant and drawing games separately, so let's take a look at that:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
Unfortunately, Ohio does not break down the game types by prizes much further than this, although, you can find some more specific information just on the sales end of things if you care to go look. We'd mostly have been interested in the sales/prizes breakdown for the different denominations of instant tickets, because just about everything else about every other lottery type (state drawings, multi-state drawings) tends to be pretty consistent.
There are a lot of rivers in Ohio, maybe instead of playing the lottery, you can instead take that money and do a little boating, canoeing, or hell...go to one of the casinos nearest you where you'll at least get free Pepsi and better returns on the games you play!
Oklahoma is another one of those states that is sparsely populated and largely spread out, with the exception of a few medium-sized cities. With that said, Oklahomans have a wide variety of gaming options as Tribal Casinos are found all over the state, have any form of gambling you can imagine, and the largest casino in the country, WinStar is located, you guessed it, in Oklahoma.
Additionally, charitable gambling is permitted in the form of bingo and raffles, both of which are common, and the state tends to be fairly unrestrictive on social gambling.
Basically, from what we know so far, everything would seem to point to a low per resident loss to the lottery compared to other states, but maybe we'll be surprised (let's hope not!) here.
In the form of the Annual Lottery Report, specifically, we will focus on Fiscal Year 2019.
The first thing that we note is that revenues from games were 241,693,417 and total prizes were 141,324,235 which results in an overall return to player of 58.47%. Residents and visitors would lose $100,369,182 to the lottery for Fiscal Year 2019, which based on an estimated population of 643,692 for the year, amounts to $155.93/resident.
It looks like we have been surprised! It turns out that Oklahoma residents seem to love getting slaughtered to the tune of 40%+ of all monies bet, I guess some of them must trust the lottery more than the Tribal Casinos, but who knows why? The Lottery is just a good way to lose your money, "Sooner." (Forgive the pun)
Later on in the report we see the numbers for Instant Tickets separated from those of Drawing tickets, so let's have a look at that:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
Much like other states, the overall returns to player are being propped up by drawing tickets. Overall, these numbers are right in line with what is about average in other states, if nothing else, Instant Ticket returns may be ever so slightly below average.
Of course, when you're eating more than a 30% house edge, it hardly matters. If you were going to spend $100 on lottery tickets for the year, instead just light $30 of it on fire and keep the rest. Not only will you have more money, by expectation, but it'll also save you a trip to the gas station, which could be 20 or more miles away, depending on where you live in the state.
What you choose to do with your money is up to you, but this writer hopes that fewer of you will continue to choose to play so much of it with your state's lottery.
The State of Oregon has a smorgasbord of gambling options. In addition to Tribal Casinos, Oregon also has a very liberal take on Charitable Gambling, allowing for Monte Carlo nights, Bingo, Pull Tabs, Raffles and even some poker. Oregon is also pretty lose on social gambling, as long as nobody is taking a rake. Many bars and restaurants throughout the state even have their own little card rooms.
Oregon is one of only a few states to have state administered Limited Video Lottery Terminals (VLT's) and these can be found in little bars and parlors scattered throughout the state. Other states with such things include West Virginia and Illinois.
One would expect that there's enough good gambling in the state that residents and visitors wouldn't feel the need to play traditional lottery games, but Oklahoma certainly fooled us, so let's check it out here.
With the Annual Lottery Report for Oregon for the 2019 Fiscal Year. Oregon residents are reputed to be pretty smart, on average, so I guess we'll see.
The first thing that we will note is that we are only looking at the traditional lottery for these purposes. The first page relevant to us lists the sales separately by general game types, but not prizes. Either way, sales totaled $380,051,099 of which $239,044,444 was returned in prizes. This results in an overall return to player of 62.9%, which is on the high end of average.
Oregon residents and visitors would lose $141,006,655 to the state for this Fiscal Year, so based on a population estimate of 4.218M for 2019, residents lost an average of $33.43.
It turns out that Oregon residents are generally smart enough to avoid the traditional lottery and actually behaved as expected given the many other lawful forms of gambling available to them. Let's hope that more of them realize that the lottery is a total rip off and traditional games die off.
Throughout the report, prizes are consistently listed as a single line item, so there is no more useful information we can gather. If you're worried about drawing ticket sales by game type, then the report is linked above. We're worried about the returns-to-player and there is nothing else that this report feels like telling us in that regard.
Keep Portland weird and keep gambling smart, let's get those traditional lottery sales down to $0.00!
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a wide variety of gambling options available to its many residents, with Commercial Casinos sprinkled throughout the states, albeit mostly concentrated in densely populated areas. Charitable gaming, such as Bingo and Raffles are also commonly found in the state with many entities having regular Bingo nights weekly.
The state has recently legalized sports betting, both in land casinos and online, as well as online casinos that can offer the full spectrum of casino games, including poker.
Even with all of these better forms of gambling, we would assume that the Pennsylvania State Lottery wins a bunch of money on a per resident basis, especially considering the population density in certain sections of the state.
Pennsylvania is also home to, 'Legal,' Skill Games, at least, for the time being. Legal is in quotes because they are more not exactly illegal than they are expressly legal. The state lottery is pretty ticked off about those, probably because the returns to player are much better than lottery games and the Government isn't getting a slice.
In any event, we will have to digest this report. In order to know for sure.
That's right. It's about a page and a half and that is literally the annual report. The Pennsylvania State Lottery is nothing if not the opposite of transparent. Shady as hell.
Another example of shadiness is that the lottery offers certain deposit bonuses on its website for online games (that nobody should ever play), but unlike the online casinos that are run through actual physical casinos, it's borderline impossible to find the playthrough requirements for PA Lottery online games anywhere on their site.
In any event, traditional lottery sales totaled 4,503,328,678 for the year of 2019 with a total of 2,927,074,532 in prize liabilities, which comes out to an overall 65.00% return-to-player. Residents and visitors would lose $1,576,254,146 to the state lottery during that physical year, so based on an estimated population of 12.8 million, the average resident lost $123.14 to this shady as hell state lottery.
This lottery does not care one bit about its players or even the slightest bit of transparency. Our advice is always not to play the lottery, but especially don't play this one until they produce a reasonable annual report. If you must gamble and don't want to go to the casinos, play one of the Pace-O-Matic Games of Skill instead, just make sure you don't leave any winners behind and always check, "Next Puzzle."
Not only do the Skill Games return better than the lottery does, but playing them will also tick the lottery off even more. They deserve it.
Rhode Island is home to a few small casinos and has Bingo and Raffles for Charitable Gambling options. Additionally, the state allows for online gambling, at least, as far as Daily Fantasy Sports and Sports Betting goes. Simulcast Wagering and live race pari-mutuel betting are also legal in the state.
Naturally, Rhode Island has a state lottery, after all, there are more than a million residents. It's only the smallest state in terms of land area.
Let's find out how well the lottery does in per resident loss here, with the 2019 Annual Lottery Report.
The relevant games for this page are Instant Tickets which resulted in 102,914,666 in revenues as well as drawing tickets which were good for 160,361,098. This results in a total of $263,275,764 in traditional lottery revenues.
Casinos in the state also operate by way of the lottery, so there are video lottery and table games revenue sharing to be considered, but those things are of no concern to this report.
The report later states that total prize awards were 61.42% return to player for traditional lottery, which means that players received $161,703,974.2 in overall prizes. That being the case, players lost a total of $101,571,789 to the lottery, which based on a population estimate of 1.059M for 2019, comes out to about $95.91 per resident.
Later on in the report, we find that Instant Ticket prizes were 71,047,693, which means that Instant Tickets had a return to player of 69.04%.
Drawing games returned 94,219,635 in prizes, so 58.75% was the overall return to player of drawing games.
All told, Instant Tickets returned slightly below average and Drawing Tickets returned slightly above the average. Keno was the revenue leader for drawing games, and that's going to have a better than normal return, in fact, we know it returned 65.58% and accounted for nearly half of all drawing sales, so that helped to pull the average up.
Either way, as with all lotteries, the Rhode Island State Lottery remains a terrible bet that should be best avoided. Good on them for having a decent annual report, though.
This state seems to really hate gambling with Charitable Bingo and Raffles (that are more tightly regulated than others) being the only legal forms of gambling outside of the State Lottery. There is a gambling riverboat that leaves port from this state, but it's a literal riverboat that has to travel a few miles out to sea before people can start gambling.
Is it the state that doesn't like gambling, or the residents? I guess we will find out when we analyze the 2019 Annual Lottery Report to see how much the average South Carolina resident lost to the only form of gambling that is widely available to them.
The first page that is of any concern to us has just about all the basics covered, so let's take a look at game types and returns to player:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
It would appear that the Instant Games return better than average whilst the drawing games return significantly less than average. It's a pretty safe guess that the multi-state lottery games make up a sizable percentage of the drawing ticket sales.
Overall, residents of the state would lose about 668.8M to the lottery for Fiscal Year 2019, so based on an estimated population of 5.149M for that time, the average loss per resident was about $129.89.
It's better to not gamble at all than to bet on the lottery, but we can understand why these numbers might be so high considering there really isn't much in the way of other gambling options in the state. It would also seem that they have some popular Instant Ticket games as those sales dwarf drawing tickets.
South Dakota actually has a surprising amount of gambling options from the card rooms, to tribal casinos to the casinos in Deadwood. Additionally, certain forms of charitable gambling are also legal within the state.
The population is somewhat sparse and spread out, so we would expect the South Dakota Lottery to perhaps not do as well as some others on the basis of loss per resident, but the only way to know is to look over the 2019 Annual Report and see what there is to see.
We should also mention that casino machines are considered Video Lottery, so those numbers are not going to be included as the goal of this page is to look at traditional lottery types. The very first page that is relevant to us lists the basic information that we want:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
As we can see, the Instant Ticket returns to player are slightly worse than average whilst the Drawing Ticket returns are maybe a hair better than average. The most likely cause is variance when it comes to second-top jackpots in multi-state lotteries, or just a significant percentage of drawing ticket revenue being derived from non multi-state games.
In any event, residents lost a total of $25,241,848 to the lottery for that Fiscal Year, which based on an estimated population of 884,659, yields an average loss per resident of $28.53. It looks like North Dakota's standing as the least average loss per resident of states with a lottery is still safe, for now, but we'll have to see if Wyoming has something to say about it.
Sales and prizes aren't broken down any further in the report, so that's it for that. Let's see if you guys can get those lottery revenues down to $0 by the end of the decade!
Tennessee is an extremely tough place to live if you frequently have an urge to gamble. Their all-encompassingly worded laws would be sufficient to, absent a new law to the contrary, even make almost all forms of social gambling illegal. Pari-mutuel and simulcast wagering is legal, but there's no physical location in the state to do it as there are no active tracks.
But, even many states that are otherwise anti-gambling won't hesitate to have a lottery, and Tennessee is no exception. What remains to be seen is whether or not the residents are losing a bunch of money to the Tennessee Lottery, or if they are mostly uninterested:
Which brings us to the Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2019.
The starting bit of this lottery report is phrased in a rather unusual way, so the first thing we are going to do is grab the revenues from sales:
At this point, the lottery separates out the value of Instant tickets that are provided promotionally, or as prizes, but I'm not going to do that. The first reason why is that there is no guarantee they will actually get redeemed, and this paragraph is the second reason why:
Instant games prize expense is managed through the number of tickets printed for each game and the value of prizes as determined prior to ticket production. Prize expense is recorded based on an established prize structure and a related percentage of sales for each game introduced and is recognized when products are made available for sale to the public.
The aggregated prize payout for all instant games was 67.6%, 67.6%, and 67.4% of instant game sales, net of free tickets, for 2019, 2018, and 2017, respectively. Gross prize expense for drawing-style games generally increases or decreases in direct proportion to ticket sales of the related game and is recorded at the time of the related draw. The aggregated prize payout for all drawing-style games was 51.1%, 51.1%, and 50.5% for 2019, 2018, and 2017, respectively.
So, we're just going to use their percentages instead. Based on this, instant games had an expected return of 979,441,528 and drawing games an expected return of 185,863,986.
Therefore, we find that lottery players were expected to lose:
(1,448,878,000+363,726,000 )-( 979,441,528+185,863,986) = 647,298,486, so based on an estimated population of 6.829M for the year 2019, we see an expected loss of $94.79/resident.
This lottery later on has a line item for, "Available Prizes," which I take to mean prizes that are outstanding pertinent to tickets currently on the market, though some of them might have been sold and are simply unclaimed.
I guess all we're saying is that it's a very unusual lottery report that seems to prefer reporting expectation to the actual numbers that described what happened that year.
Texas is a virtual hellscape if you find yourself frequently inclined to gamble. A charity has to jump through hoops just to be able to offer Bingo, and the County in which the Bingo is to take place has to have voted, or hold a vote, to authorize it there.
If you like torturing dogs, then I guess you're in luck. Texas is one of the only states with an active greyhound track, as of the end of 2022, it'll be one of only two states along with West Virginia. Of course, West Virginia might outlaw it by then if the State Legislators who are apparently in the pockets of the state's greyhound breeders are voted out.
Other than that, there's not much in the way of gambling in Texas. There's some silly skill machine game and some eight-line game, but the maximum permitted prize for those is $5, so I can't imagine they are terribly popular. I don't even know that any exist. That would require me to visit the State of Texas, which as of right now, I'd have no reason to ever want to do.
Even though they are pretty anti-gambling in other ways, sure enough, Texas is home to a state lottery. Here's the Annual Report (and business plan?) for 2019.
I'd say the, "Business Plan," is pretty simple: Fight against all other forms of legalized gambling and continue to fleece the players. Lotteries really aren't a tough concept. We can hope that the lottery doesn't do very well in terms of loss per resident, but given that a large portion of the population is concentrated in a few major cities, I expect the state to be at least average and probably higher.
It appears that Instant 'Scratch' Tickets' sales were 4.8456B and Drawing Ticket sales came out to about 1.4059B. This results in total sales of 6.2515B for the Texas Lottery. Of course, Texas is massively populated, so this might not be a complete disaster on a loss/resident basis.
In the opening letter, I was able to find that Texans would collect 4.132B in prizes for the year; it's not really mentioned in the other sections where you might expect to see that information. All of those sections are sales, sales, sales. Let's get it straight: Direct donations to the entities in question that the Texas Lottery supposedly helps would be more effective than buying their stupid tickets, and you're also just sales to them. They don't even consider you players; they consider you cattle.
Anyway, what we end up with is a total return to player of roughly 66.10%, which is undoubtedly bolstered by the fact that over 75% of the sales are on higher returning (compared to drawings) instant tickets. According to the Lottery Report, the $10 price point for scratch off tickets is apparently doing pretty well. Not that lottery players generally care, but your expected loss on those is probably somewhere in the range of $2.50-$3.50.
Returns as poor as those offered by the Texas Lottery, in almost any other legal gambling context, would be totally illegal, so there's that.
Players would lose 2.1195B to the Texas Lottery for Fiscal Year 2019, so based on an estimated population of 29M, we arrive at an average loss per resident of $73.09. It wasn't quite the bloodbath I thought that it would be; these numbers are fairly middle of the road.
What's more fun than losing a huge chunk of money on a $50 Instant Ticket? The Lottery hopes losing a huge chunk of money on a $100 Instant Ticket, from the report:
$100 – Premium Price Point Scratch Ticket Game
The $20 and $50 price point games have seen significant sales growth in recent years. From FY 2015 to FY 2019, sales at the $20 price point have increased 48.6% while sales at the $50 price point have increased 131.8%. At the end of FY 2019, the $20 and $50 price points were the third and fourth bestselling price points respectively. With the demand for games at higher price points increasing, the Texas Lottery is starting to consider all available options for the development of a $100 scratch ticket game. A game at this price point would require a unique prize structure to differentiate it from games at the $20, $30 and $50 levels. It would also require a ticket design that would allow it to be marketed as a premium product. In addition, the distribution and pack size for a $100 scratch ticket game must be evaluated to ensure optimal acceptance and placement at Texas Lottery retail locations.
One hundreds dollar scratch-off tickets in a state that won't legalize REAL gambling for you? Texans are supposed to have a ton of common sense, so prove it by not buying any of these pieces of garbage. You might as well pull a $20 out of your wallet and go tip a random waitress at a restaurant without even eating there, at least you'll still have $80 left.
The actual report does not discuss prizes at all, the only place I found any information along those lines was in one of the two letters that opened the report. This is completely ridiculous.
Fortunately, residents are losing less per capita than those of some other states, but Texas should try to get to the point where residents are losing less than $30, on average, to the lottery.
I wonder when $500 Instant Tickets are going to come out.
Oh, but the Texas Lottery does have a four-page section on social responsibility. They didn't mention $100 instant tickets in that section, though.
Nope. No form of gambling is legal in Utah.
For its part, Vermont doesn't have much in the way of legalized gambling on the Commercial level, but they treat the charities pretty well. In addition to one Monte Carlo night per month, charities may engage in Bingo, Raffles, Pull-Tabs (that the state terms, "Break-Open Tickets") and certain card games.
There are a few places dotting the state that offer off-track betting, but that is legally ambiguous. Chances are that very few people indulge, so the state doesn't care about it a whole lot. The biggest push to allow for simulcast wagering at state racing tracks came in the early nineties, as pari-mutuel betting is otherwise legal, but not simulcast. That effort failed and now there are no horse tracks in Vermont. Cause and effect. Not a big loss.
Vermont engages in a state lottery, but this thinly populated state is of the demographic that we would expect to have little interest. Vermont's population trends older and tends to be well-educated, so there's a better than fair chance that most of them are uninterested in the terrible returns the lottery has to offer. The only way to find out is to look at The 2019 Annual Report of the Department of Liquor and Lottery.
I prefer to call it the Bureau of Drinkin' and Gamblin'!
The first 75% of the report focuses on the drinkin', effectively making the LOttery Report twelve pages long. That should be a sign of positive things to come---which is to say not many people playing the lottery.
Unfortunately, the report doesn't contain much except for the very basics from which we find that total ticket sales were $139,268,837 and total prizes came out to $90,892,067, which represents a return to player of 65.26%. In total, lottery players lost something in the neighborhood of $48,376,770, which based on an estimated population of 623,989 for the year, comes out to about $77.53/resident.
You let me down, Vermont! Please consider playing less lottery games. I know there's really nothing else up there in terms of gambling, but how about a nice game of Euchre or Gin with a neighbor? The lottery is terrible!
For some reason, it seems that we can only find the Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2020, though we were looking for the 2019 one.
Virginia is a state that was pretty strict on gambling, until just recently, when they put it to the voters to decide whether or not they want casinos in a few counties and, as it turns out, the voters do! Virginia was also surprisingly one of the first states to legalize daily fantasy sports.
Online betting? Surprisingly legalized and regulated in the state in advance of the land casinos actually coming in.
"Games of Skill," were also popular in the state, such as Pace-O-Matic, but are not in a period of being phased out and will become illegal later this year (2021). Right around the same time that the casinos will be getting ready to start operations, hmm…
Ohio didn't start caring about the games of skill until it was time for the casinos to all start opening up, either.
Anyway, we can find the bare bones numbers for 2019 on this page.
So, we will call that good enough. You would think the lottery would make historical Annual Reports easier to find on their site, but nope. What we may do is see if the information in the 2020 Annual Report is any good and maybe put a few numbers in the table below with a note that they are from 2020.
The bare bones are 2.293B in lottery sales against 1.402B in prizes for FY2019, which reflects an overall return of 61.14% and losses of about 891M for the players. The population of the state was estimated to be about 8.536 million for that year, so the average resident of Virginia lost about $104.38 to the lottery.
Save that money for the casinos when they open! Maybe even go play skill games until then, they're better returning than the lottery.
Let's hope that these losses per resident plummet when these new forms of gambling that are not complete garbage start coming in.
Looking at the 2020 Annual Report, it appears that prize expenses are treated as a single line item and nowhere are instant ticket prizes even separated from those of drawing tickets. In other words, there's not much more information that is of interest to us in this report.
The State of Washington seems pretty cool with card rooms and casino gambling games provided there is some component of skill to it. Tribal Compacts with the state are such that tribes may have Class II machines (you couldn't legally stop them anyway) as well as live Keno, live Bingo and also certain Table Games.
Pari-mutuel wagering conducted live and simulcast are both allowed in the state.
The population is largely concentrated in the cities of Seattle, Spokane, Olympia, Tacoma and a few other sizeable cities. The Eastern side of Washington is a bit more rural or semi-urban, but a few reasonably sized cities can also be found.
We would expect lottery participation in this state to be about average, or maybe a little bit above when you account for the economic demographics. Overall, the state is fairly well-to-do compared to some others.
Let's take a look at the report.
Which includes the information for 2019, the year that we will be looking at.
There's a convenient little chart relatively early on in the report from which we can grab a few things:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
|Instant, "Scratch" Tickets||523.8M||355.5M||67.87%|
In total, players would lose 312.9M to the Washington State Lottery for FY2019, which based on an estimated population of 7.615M, reflects a loss of $41.09/resident. It seems that Washingtonians are mostly uninterested in playing the lottery, although, instant ticket sales seem to be going up every year, yes, even in 2020!
These number are quite good compared to some other states and put Washington safely near the bottom of money lost to the lottery on a per resident basis. Hopefully, the denizens and visitors of the state will get the idea that eating more than $30 out of every $100 bet on Instant Tickets isn't so great either and we can get the lottery's revenue to something closer to $0.00
West Virginia has any form of gambling that you can name, the residents love it! The state is home to five casinos, two greyhound tracks (unfortunately) two horse racing tracks, thousands of Limited Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) locations, charitable Bingo, Pull Tabs and Raffles, legalized and state regulated online gambling, sports betting and simulcast wagering.
If there's a way to gamble, then it's almost certainly legal in "By God" West Virginia.
The Wild and Wonderful West Virginia Lottery Commission handles all things gaming, even everything that the casinos do...at least in terms of paying all of their various taxes and the slice of machine and table revenues the state gets. However, we will only be concerning ourselves with Traditional Lottery for these purposes:
One of the first pages relevant to us has the information we need.
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
In total, West Virginians and visitors lost $80,851,000 to the traditional forms of the West Virginia lottery which, based on an estimated population of 1.792M, results in a loss per resident of $45.12. We're pretty surprised that it's that high.
Either way, it seems that the players are well-aware that there are many better gambling options available to them. Hell, there are probably some ways to gamble in West Virginia that haven't even been invented yet.
The report does not break prizes down any further than this, so we're basically done here.
Wisconsin has a little bit of everything gambling: Tribal Casinos dot the state, you have live pari-mutuel as well as simulcast wagering, charitable organizations are permitted to offer Bingo and Raffles, so there's no shortage of options.
Wisconsin has a few major population centers and also a bunch of farmland where the population is largely spread out. Still, the state is home to four cities with a population of 100k, or more, so let's see how that plays out with the lottery.
And what the annual report for the Fiscal Year ending in 2019 has to say about it.
The first thing that we note is 451.3M in Instant Ticket Sales took place and another 261.8M in Drawing, 'Lotto,' Games for a total of 713.1M. The section after that indicates that a total of 431.9M in prizes were paid out, thereby making the return to player 60.57% overall.
Wisconsinites(?) would lose a total of 281.2M to traditional forms of lottery for 2019, so based on an estimated population of 5.822M for the year, we put the lottery losses at about $48.30/resident. It seems that the residents would rather have a combination pot luck/meat raffle and sample each other's Hot Dish than play the lottery, good on them!
Playing the lottery is...um...an interesting thing to do. (This is Wisconsin-speak for saying, "Dumb," thing to do) so let's hope that the lottery's revenues drop in the years to come and eventually hit zero! Between all the snow that there is to shovel and all the fish there are to pull out of the ice, you betcha that the state's residents have better things to do than play the lottery, dontcha know?
Excellent, we can find later on in the report breakdowns by individual games (for drawing games) and game type:
|Game Type||Sales||Prizes||Return to Player|
Unfortunately, the lottery does not separate Instant Ticket sales and prizes by ticket denomination, but Maine was the only state to provide that specific information. If you want to know the sales and prizes (and can easily calculate the return) for the various drawing games, then that information is in there.
***I want to offer a Special Thanks to Charlie Berens (Youtube Channel is his name) and the Youtube Channel You Betcha (Myles Montplaisir) for having hilarious channels with consistently great content and also being responsible for me being able to, "Speak Wisconsin," for this section of the page. I recommend you check these channels out if you want to see two guys poking fun at the culture of their region in a lighthearted way.
But, we've only got one state left, so we had better, "Keep 'er Movin'."
Wyoming has the least population density of any state in the continental 48 and has a few different forms of gambling otherwise. Social gambling is completely legal in the state, and it is actually because of that the tribes (and their four casinos, though only two of them are of any meaningful size and scope) must be permitted to offer Class III Gaming against Wyoming's will.
Wyoming has authorized historical horse racing machines, which is a good thing, because all of the horse racing track locations had been closed before they did that. Horse racing mostly consists of a few live dates in the Summer months here and there. One track runs June-August, but most of them just run on weekends for a month and a half or two months.
Charitable gambling is legal in the state to the extent of Bingo and raffles.
Of course, Wyoming has a state lottery, but it doesn't seem like it is terribly popular. The population is also extremely spread out, so fair chance many of the residents do not have a lottery distributor convenient to them for daily play.
We will find out here, with the Annual Report for 2019.
Okay, so we're going to figure out what we can figure out from this report. This is the only report that separates prizes paid out into low-tier and high tier, which actually should provide interesting illumination on just how badly players get slaughtered on multi-state games, but we'll get to that in a minute.
For the time being, lottery revenues in the form of sales totaled $36,859,625.10 against $19,799,250.02 paid out in prizes for a return to player of 53.72% overall, which is probably because all (except raffle) are drawing games.
Players would lose a total of precisely $17,060,375.08 to the lottery for Fiscal Year 2019, which based on a population estimate of 578,759 residents, reflects a loss of $29.48/resident.
Wyoming tried, but North Dakota is our winner for the lowest lottery loss, per resident, of any state of the fifty! Good job, North Dakota! They don't win any money for accomplishing this feat, but they certainly lose less of it, at least, to the lottery.
So, if we look at this lottery report, Mega Millions, "Low tier," prizes paid under 10% of all bets back to the player. Powerball low-tier prizes returned about 11.63%. Low-tier Lucky for Life prizes were about 34.53% return to player and Cowboy Draw returned 26.7% in low-tier prizes.
If you want to know the returns for a specific game, then you can look on the page. The Wyoming Lottery sold no Instant Tickets that year, so all are drawing games.
Hopefully the residents will get the idea that the lottery is terrible and, in the meantime, the Lottery Department can keep burning up the internet with their 1,391 Twitter followers as of the 2019 Annual Report (Yes, the report discussed this).
The conclusion is the same as the title: The Lottery sucks.
In only a few instances, mostly high-end Instant Tickets, would the return of any traditional lottery game satisfy the minimum required returns for any regulated slot machine in the entire country. If returns that would be illegally low in any other context don't suck, then you tell me what they do.
No matter who you are, no matter what your situation and no matter what state you live in, one thing will always be true: The return to player of the lottery is terrible and you should never play it. There's really no other way to look at it when you take a hard look at the numbers.
We find that, in general, similar states where one state has casinos and the other doesn't, the state without casinos will have a more successful lottery department. With that, however, comes the fact that casinos (while offering better returns to player) will bring in more money on the Government's slice of revenues than state lotteries could ever dream of accomplishing.
In general, we have also found that states with low population density and not much in the way of concentrated major cities tend to do more lose less, per resident, to the lottery than other states. The obvious reason for this is because people who might otherwise play the lottery aren't always terribly convenient to a lottery retailer.
There were definitely a few surprises in there. Despite not having many other legalized forms of gambling, Gerorgians, on average, dropped an amount to the lottery that is flat-out shocking. Of course, it seems that South Carolinians (also devoid of other gambling options, mostly) dumped a lot of their money, too.
Somewhat surprising states to come in with high traditional lottery loss per resident, due to other (better) forms of gambling being available in the state, were Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Oklahoma. States such as Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey might surprise some, but then you have to remember that a large chunk of the populace of those states are not terribly convenient to a casino.
Well, that's it. Please take the time to read the final table below and compare the states for yourself!
|State||Instant Ticket Sales||Instant Ticket Return to Player||Instant Ticket Return Percentage||Drawing Ticket Sales||Drawing Ticket Return to Player||Drawing Ticket Return Percentage||Loss Per Resident|
- Arizona is one of a few states that does not even separate their returns-to-player by ticket type on their annual report, for that reason, we do not know what the percentage breakdown is by game type. We do know that the total return-to-player is 65.62%, considering all games.
- Drawing ticket return-to-player, in Connecticut, are partially attributable to a Keno game that the state has that pays more than 60%, other drawing type games are pretty similar in return percentage to those of other states.
- The Delaware Lottery is actually engaged in virtually all forms of gambling within the state, of which there are many, including Commercial Casinos. Delaware is also home to something called a Sports Lottery, which itself is fairly unique to the state. For that reason, this number includes only traditional lottery with other forms of lottery being included in the number below this in the table.
- This number represents losses to the lottery, per resident, in Delaware that excludes all video lottery terminal and table games revenues, but includes the Delaware Sports Lottery.
- This is the Delaware Lottery Revenue from all sources. Delaware is a unique state in that, rather than having a separate Division of Gaming, or equivalent, all Gaming activities are managed through the lottery, including casino gambling.
- The numbers all make sense for Instant Tickets, but make no sense whatsoever to drawing tickets compared to what is reported in the Georgia Lottery Annual Report. For whatever reason, there are lottery games that are NOT instant games that are also NOT counted as drawing games. If the report specifies which is which at all, this Annual Report is terrible. The reason it is terrible because it is written in paragraph form to describe the sales and prizes for each individual game, but does not consolidate this information into a table or chart. It would take a lot of reverse engineering to figure out what counts as instant and what doesn't.
- The State of Idaho sells Pull Tabs through the Lottery as well as Touch Tabs which, while listed separately in the Idaho section, are being accounted for as Instant Tickets for the purposes of our chart. These are closer to an Instant type game than they are to a drawing type game, but this note is to designate that they are not scratch-off tickets, necessarily.
- It's also worth noting that Raffle Ticket sales are listed separately elsewhere, but adding them to a different listing for Draw Ticket sales reflects the total listed above, so raffles are treated the same as a drawing game for general purposes.
- The Idaho Lottery also administers a Raffle, so Raffle sales and prizes are being counted as drawing ticket sales for the purposes of this table.
- The Idaho Lottery also sells Pull Tabs as well as a product called TouchTabs, these products are being counted as Instant Tickets for the purposes of this table. Because of that, the return of Instant Tickets is a little higher than it otherwise might be because TouchTabs return just over 80%. Pull Tabs are right in line with Instant Tickets when it comes to return to player.
- This loss per resident in the State of Idaho includes pull tabs, lottery-conducted raffles and TouchTabs as well as more traditional lottery products. TouchTabs actually helped out the state a lot, otherwise, they would definitely be towards the bottom in lottery loss, per resident.
- The Illinois' Lottery Annual Report for 2019 states nothing that would be at all helpful to players. It does not even differentiate sales by game types, much less prizes. There's just a line item for sales and a line item for prizes, so the report is borderline useless.
- This number includes only traditional forms of lottery for the State of Illinois.
- The Iowa State Lottery offers pull tabs, but surprisingly, they actually have a worse return than the more traditional instant lottery tickets! Therefore, we are not including them as either drawing or instant tickets in this table, however, losses from those will be included in the lottery loss, per resident, numbers.
- The Kansas State Lottery does not make its information easily available. They have a webpage that lists the total sales and prize payouts for 2019, all games included, but that's it. There is a phone number on that webpage that a person could call if they wished to request the full lottery report, but that's completely ridiculous when it is public information and should be a trivial affair to upload on their site. Even if it exists in hard copy, all they would have to do is scan it and put the images on a single webpage. We know the overall return to player is 58.48%, roughly, but that combines instant and drawing games.
- This includes Kentucky iLottery games, which is basically Keno (but isn't played much) and has a 77.99% return to player, the return to player on traditional drawing games is 58.64%.
- Maine Lottery has an instant game called Fast Play, which we included as a drawing game on this table.
- The Drawing Games figure for Massachusetts includes Keno. Because the state doesn't deign to breakdown the prizes by game type, it really doesn't matter where Keno goes.
- The loss per resident for the State of Michigan includes prizes that have not been claimed, so if they were to be claimed, then the loss per resident would have been a bit less. State lotteries usually just consider this a liability, so these might be expired tickets, or something.
- In addition to the usual Drawing Games, the State of Michigan has games called, "Club Games," and some games classified as, "Other," for which they listed the sales separately, but included the prizes in either club, instant, or drawing games. For the purposes of this table, all games that are not Instant Tickets are being considered Drawing Games.
- The MIssissippi State Lottery was not even authorized until the year 2018, and late in that year, for that matter. The Lottery has yet to produce a comprehensive financial report that covers a full year, though it has been in operation and selling tickets for about two years, at this point. The Mississippi Lottery produces quarterly reports, and what we were able to gather from those is an overall return to players of under 60%, despite the fact that more than 90% of the lottery's sales are Instant Tickets! In other words, lotteries are generally a bad bet and THIS lottery seems to be an extraordinarily bad bet.
- For the Missouri Lottery, Pull Tabs are being included in Instant Ticket Sales. This pulls the return for Instant Tickets up a good bit, as the pull tabs return almost 90% by themselves, but the Instant Tickets without the Pull Tabs still return north of 72%.
- Unfortunately, the 2019 Annual Lottery Report only lists all ticket sales and all prizes paid out as single line items, so we have no idea what sales or what prizes came from what type of ticket. All things considered, we do know that the lottery returned 58.97% to players.
- New Hampshire Lottery Keno is included as a drawing game for the purposes of this table.
- While the New Jersey Lottery Annual Report lists all of their sales and breaks them down by each individual game, prizes are listed as a single line item in all instances and are not even separated by drawing v. Instant Ticket. This kind of non-reporting is shady and patently ridiculous considering the amount of money that they are pulling in.
- This number for New York represents only traditional lottery and does not include any revenues derived from the state's video lottery terminals.
- The North Dakota Lottery does not separate sales and prizes by game type in its annual lottery report. More than that, prizes reported are based only on those tickets that have been redeemed and actual results for drawing tickets. For that reason, the overall lottery return appears to be worse than some other states, but at least part of that is the fact that other states (especially when it comes to Instant Tickets) include tickets that were not redeemed as prizes.
- The Oregon State Lottery lists all traditional lottery prizes as a single line item throughout, so we have no way of knowing how much in prizes should be attributed to instant and how much to drawing. The numbers might also slightly disagree with the Oregon section because the report seems to treat unclaimed prizes in two different ways in different areas of the report, so there's a slight discrepancy in drawing ticket sales reported in the table v. total sales reported in the section.
- The Annual Report for the Pennsylvania State Lottery is literally only a page and a half long and provides only bare bones figures. It does give a line item for total prize obligation, which states that the return to player is about 65% overall, but does not separate these prizes into drawing and instant, or anything else, for that matter. For that reason, sales breakdown numbers are not even worth listing.
- Tennessee has an unusual lottery report in that it directly reports the aggregate percentage return to player based on the tickets that have been sold. Of course, this results in a best case scenario for the players for what we are doing, because it assumes that all winning tickets are going to be redeemed. They're not, of course, hence the note that these are theoretical returns. Other state lotteries only look at things in terms of what has come in and then adjust for unclaimed prizes a different way.
- The Texas Lottery doesn't even mention prizes in the Annual Report, unless you count one of the two letters leading into the report, which is where I got the information from to begin to figure out the average loss per resident. Anyway, no way to know anything else because the Texas Lottery isn't talking.
- The Vermont Lottery doesn't even separate p[rizes from other direct expenses when it comes to their financial reporting section. The only reason we knew the total paid out in prizes is because it was included in the introduction to the report, but nowhere in the report itself.
- All numbers in the table for the Virginia lottery except loss per resident are based on the 2020 Annual Lottery Report, as Virginia makes it difficult to find past annual reports on the lottery website. We were able to find overall sales and prizes for 2019, so the loss per resident numbers do reflect the 2019 Fiscal Year.
- The Virginia State Lottery treats prizes as a single line item and does not even separate instant ticket prizes from drawing ticket prizes.
- The West Virginia loss per resident considers only traditional lottery for the purposes of this page. Even ignoring casinos, factoring in state-run Video Lottery Terminals would result in West Virginia having one of the highest losses to the lottery, per resident, in the country.
- At least for Fiscal Year 2019, the Wyoming State Lottery only had drawing tickets.
Are Lottery Players Smart? - Do the US states with better lottery returns tend to have a greater loss per resident than the states in which the lotteries return more poorly?
- Powerball calculator — Calculate for odds for the Powerball, or any lottery with five "white balls" and one "Power Ball."
- Mega Millions calculator — Calculate for odds for the Mega Millions, or any lottery with five "white balls" and one "Mega Ball."
- Pick Six calculator — Calculate for odds for any "pick six" game.
- SuperLotto Plus — California Lottery game.
- Lottery Jackpot Ticket Sales Calculator — Estimate ticket sales and probability of a winner for any jackpot size for the Power Ball and MegaMillions.
Written by: Brandon James