Why do lottery winners often come from small towns?
June 15, 2009 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Why is it that most winning lottery tickets seem to be sold at small mom and pop stores in small towns as opposed to chain stores in larger cities?

I'm thinking this may have to do with the ratio of tickets sold at these small stores in small towns full of hopeful people.
posted by nougat to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by nitsuj at 7:09 AM on June 15, 2009

Perhaps this isn't really the case but only appears to be so because the media publicizes those lottery winners who come from small, hard luck, blue collar towns, as opposed to, say, the occasional lottery winner who has a white collar job in Boston or Los Angeles?
posted by dfriedman at 7:14 AM on June 15, 2009

I don't have a source for this, but I remember reading that scratch-off tickets are more popular and perhaps more heavily marketed in urban areas. I think the article I'd read compared it to the "numbers game" historically popular in some urban communities.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:30 AM on June 15, 2009

One factor could be that Powerball is the most publicized drawing, and it isn't sold in many of the states with the biggest cities: New York, Texas, California, and Illinois.
posted by smackfu at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2009

The key part is "seem"

My guess is that you are using the "availability heuristic" and "representativeness heuristic" leading to a cognitive bias in your assessment of the geographic distribution of winners.

You remember the small town lottery winners because they are notable, memorable, publishable and believable. You forget about the boring winners because they rate just a photo, a caption and maybe at most a one line "What will you do now?" interview question.
posted by srboisvert at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2009 [7 favorites]

I'm in NYC, and I can't think of any "chain stores" that sell lottery tickets (I think my Duane Reade location does, but I'm not sure if they all do). I'm guessing the majority of vendors even here are mom-and-pop shops.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:46 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

The recent big winner in the DC area got his ticket at a Giant supermarket (which then donated their commission to a food bank).
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:58 AM on June 15, 2009

A small store is more likely to want to advertise that it is selling winning tickets, and is much more likely to make a ruckus when it happens than a big chain.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:16 AM on June 15, 2009

Yeah, that's something else--many chain stores don't sell lottery tickets, either because they're anti-gambling or because they don't like the lottery-ticket-buying clientele or because they think lotteries are a tax on the stupid or, y'know, for some other reason.
posted by box at 9:19 AM on June 15, 2009

Does Walmart sell lottery tickets? In much of the country, they are THE chain store. So simply by them not selling them, that pushes it out to the smaller places.
posted by smackfu at 10:02 AM on June 15, 2009

I have a feeling that it's simply more popular to report "Mom & Pop sell 10 gazilluion dollar winner!" than "7-11 sells 10 gazillion dollar winner!" and that the location of the winning ticket only gets reported when it's interesting, hence.
posted by GilloD at 10:40 AM on June 15, 2009

Do note that many "chain stores" are in fact franchises, with the actual store being owned by a mom and pop.

Nevertheless, I think it's simply that convenience stores -- mostly local small businesses, whether they carry a national brand or not -- are the dominant seller of lottery tickets.

New Jersey

Also, mom and pop businesses may in fact rely more heavily on lottery sales.
posted by dhartung at 11:52 AM on June 15, 2009

I just Googled "Kroger lottery" and ended up with a recent news story of someone who won $28 million from a Lotto Texas ticket bought here in Houston. Kroger is the nation's largest supermarket chain (as opposed to WalMart's superstores). The search results suggest numerous cases of winners not only among Kroger customers but also among Kroger employees.
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:20 PM on June 15, 2009

Google for "lottery poverty" and you'll find plenty of hits suggesting that poorer people tend to buy more lottery tickets.

And it's obvious that wealth is concentrated in cities -- rural areas all over the world have suffered repeating cycles of depopulation ever since the Industrial Revolution.
posted by randomstriker at 11:49 PM on June 17, 2009

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