- Associated Press - Saturday, October 7, 2017

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Paulette Blackwell of Orangeburg described the lottery as a big deal in her town.

“There’s just a lot of people that play it. Every week,” she said.

The numbers bear that out. The county leads the state in lottery spending per capita for 2016-17.

Blackwell said she doesn’t play the lottery, but her husband likes the scratch-off games he purchases with pocket change.

“He’s the luckiest man,” she said.

Every time she buys gas, people are lined up to buy lottery tickets.

“When they get paid around here that’s where they go,” she said. “I would say it’s addictive to some.”

Per capita lottery spending in Orangeburg County was $1,217; Jasper County, $1,035; Bamberg County, $999; Clarendon County, $990; and Marlboro County, $943.

Researchers have noted a connection between low-income households and higher lottery sales. A Duke University study determined that the poorest third of households purchased more than half of all weekly lottery tickets.

In a 2014 demographic survey, the S.C. Education Lottery found that people with a high school education or less spent twice as much on average for lottery tickets compared with people with a four-year college degree. Residents of households with annual incomes under $35,000 spent double the amount on average for lottery tickets when compared with household incomes of $100,000 to $150,000.

In Allendale County, where the Census Bureau reports that 41 percent of residents live below the poverty level, spending on the lottery was $819 per capita. Some 33 percent of Williamsburg County residents were considered impoverished and the county per capita lottery spending was $820. Bamberg County residents spent $999 per capita in a community where 32 percent of residents were impoverished.

The Post and Courier determined per capita spending by using S.C. Education Lottery figures for total sales by county from Jan. 1 of last year through Sept. 12 and U.S. Census Bureau population figures.

Richland County brought in the most lottery dollars overall, at $237.8 million, followed by Charleston County, $232.1 million; Greenville County, $187.5 million; Horry County, $186.4 million; Lexington County, $157.8 million; and York County, $138.2 million. In those counties, the per capita spending ranged from $375 in Greenville County to $585 in Charleston County. Total spending on the lottery in the state’s 46 counties was nearly $3 billion.

Recent winners include a $1 million Mega Millions ticket purchased on James Island and a $125,000 ticket sold in Clemson. The person who bought the Mega Millions ticket beat long odds of 1 in 18,492,204.

People who spend too much on the lottery tend to have a larger problem with gambling, said Jimmy Mount, spokesman for the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services.

“We receive calls from people who are having problems with sports betting and internet betting and bingo. The lottery does not make up the lion’s share,” he said.

The state’s toll-free gambling hotline, 1-877-452-5155, provides information on local treatment services.

“We do run into people who say they have bought way too many scratch-off tickets. Most of the people who have problems with gambling didn’t develop them because of the lottery,” he said. “The lottery became another choice. This was just another way for them to feed their addiction.”

The S.C. Education Lottery was established in 2001 and began selling tickets in 2002. There were 3,805 retailers selling lottery tickets, and nearly 70 percent of lottery sales were scratch-off games, according to a Legislative Audit Council report in 2014.

Lottery sales have raised $4.7 billion for South Carolina education since the games were first offered in 2002. In the last fiscal year, $401.9 million was deposited in the Education Lottery Account.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, https://www.postandcourier.com

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