StateImpact
3:27 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

(Mega-Big Mega Millions Jackpot Aside) When It Comes To The Lotto, A Lot Of "Suckers" Live In New En

Earlier today, we reposted our Losing The Lotto series to give you a bit of context about why the Mega Millions frenzy is particularly important to New Hampshire’s struggling lottery.  Since we posted, the jackpot’s increased yet again–from $540 million to $640 million.

Not surprising given AP’s report of 27,000 transactions an hour in New Hampshire alone.

Keeping all of this in mind, we thought there’s no better time to take a closer look at Bloomberg’s recently released “Sucker Index” for state lotteries. After all, even with a relatively small jackpot, your odds of winning the lottery are all-but-non-existent.  (The implication of the Bloomberg index being, of course, those who pump lots of money into the lottery, historically huge jackpot or no, are, well…suckers.)

To figure out their rankings on the Sucker Index, reporters subtracted the amount of money given out on prizes from total ticket sales for FY 2010.  Then, they divided that number “by the total personal income of the state’s residents.”  A higher score, as Bloomberg puts it, “indicates a greater propensity for ‘suckerdom.’  Lower prize payout and/or higher per-capita spending on lottery tickets lead to a higher Sucker Score.”

So how do the New England states compare?  Not surprisingly, Massachusetts, with its massively successful lottery system, topped the list for the region.  In fact, the Bay State ranks #2 in the country for suckerdom propensity, with Georgia in the #1 slot.

Here’s how the region stacked up in the rankings:

  • Massachusetts: #2
  • Rhode Island: #12
  • Connecticut: #13
  • Maine: #17
  • New Hampshire: #18
  • Vermont: #23

So despite our previous coverage that found New Hampshire’s lottery is struggling with declining revenues thanks to competition with Massachusetts, relatively low prize payouts, and a culture of frugality, when it comes to suckerdom, we’re on the upper-end of the middle-of-the-pack, nationally.

But here’s where things get more interesting.  The Sucker Index is not in itself, a measure of lottery spending in the face of astronomical odds.  Prize payout plays a big factor in Bloomberg’s rankings.  When you look at average individual lottery spending state-to-state, slightly different results emerge.  For one thing, Massachusetts zooms to the top of the list nationally (thus explaining its high rankings on the Sucker Index despite good prizes and the overwhelming success of that state’s lottery).  In terms of raw dollars, it appears that Granite Staters are more willing to pony up for the chance at millions than their neighbors in Vermont or Maine.  But when you look at it by percentage of income that goes to lottery tickets, only Vermonters out-frugal New Hampshire residents.

As for the current Mega Millions mania sweeping the state, Tim Buckland and Mark Hayward report for the Union-Leader:

“New Hampshire has never had a jackpot winner in Mega Millions. It’s relatively new in the Granite State, debuting in January 2010…

Last Friday, however, two state residents hit five of the six numbers, earning $250,000 each.

New Hampshire Lottery spokesman Maura McCann said Mega Millions customers were spending about $50,000 an hour on tickets Thursday.

‘We’re seeing spikes in sales,’ she said.”

How much of a spike remains to be seen, but it will certainly merit some following-up.

Copyright 2012 StateImpact New Hampshire. To see more, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org/new-hampshire/.