REPORT: Most impoverished North Carolina counties top lottery sales list

New analysis by N.C. Policy Watch finds adults spent an average of $212 on lottery tickets last year

RALEIGH (March 29, 2012) – North Carolina’s adults are spending an average of $212 a year on lottery tickets and scratch-off instant games, an investigative report from N.C. Policy Watch finds, with the state’s biggest lottery consumers residing in the state’s most impoverished counties.

Based on analysis of lottery sales information, adult population, and poverty estimates from the U.S. Census, the N.C. Policy Watch report found that the average per capita sales figures more than double in areas such as Halifax County, where per capita lottery sales were $516, the second-highest in the state. Halifax is one of the state’s poorest counties, with more than a quarter of its population living under the federal poverty line, roughly defined as a household income of $23,000 for a family of four. More than $21.7 million was spent on lottery tickets in Halifax County in 2011, and $1.5 billion statewide.

This report, featuring an interactive map with a county-by-county breakdown of lottery sales, is available at

In 2011, the report found, per capita sales spiked in the eastern part of the state, where $561 to $367 was spent on lottery tickets for every adult in the 10 counties with the highest per capita sales – Nash, Halifax, Vance, Wilson, Hyde, Edgecombe, Lenoir, Washington, Martin and Bertie counties. All but Nash had highly impoverished populations, with more than 20 percent of the total population living under the federal poverty line. Click here to see a spreadsheet with the complete data.

N.C. Policy Watch interviewed a variety of residents, some of whom spend as much as $100 each day on the N.C. Education Lottery. The N.C. Education Lottery has never conducted any detailed studies on its client base, the report said, but lottery officials maintain that their goal is to have a lot of people play a little bit in order to raise needed money for the state’s education system.

The lottery analysis was conducted by N.C. Policy Watch for the second year in a row, and used county sales data provided by the N.C. Education Lottery and compared it with adult populations poverty estimates from the U.S. Census. This year looked at sales data for the 2011 calendar year.


Poverty Rate: 15.6 percent
Per Capita Sales: $561.55

Poverty Rate: 26.2 percent
Per Capita Sales: $516.55

Poverty Rate: 24.3 percent
Per Capita Sales: $492.80

Poverty Rate: 22.9 percent
Per Capita Sales: $442.22

Poverty Rate: 21.9 percent
Per Capita Sales: $440.42

Poverty Rate: 24.5 percent
Per Capita Sales: $433.43

Poverty Rate: 23.2 percent
Per Capita Sales: $410.60

Poverty Rate: 22.4 percent
Per Capita Sales: $400.20

Poverty Rate: 23.4 percent
Per Capita Sales: $368.12 

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Sarah Ovaska, NC Policy Watch, 919.861.1463 (office), 919.606.6112 (mobile) or; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, 503.551.3615 or