As the North Carolina Education Lottery unveils its new Carolina Black scratch-off game, a new study found double-digit unemployment and a high poverty rate didn’t keep Richmond County from buying its fair share of lottery tickets last year.
The study released earlier this month by N.C. Policy Watch found the poorest counties in the state spent the most money on the lotto per adult. Based on 34,579 adults, Richmond County spent $236 each last year.
That’s $30 more than the state average.
While Richmond County sales pumped about $8.2 million into the state lottery, $2.3 million of it came back for county schools.
However, it also took a lot of money off the table for families already struggling to make ends meet, N.C. Policy Watch said.
Lottery officials say adults were just seeking entertainment.
“First of all, one of our guiding principles here at the Education Lottery is that the lottery is entertainment, and money spent on lottery tickets should come from people’s entertainment dollars,” NCEL Director of Communications Van Denton said. “The point at which it’s no longer entertainment and they’re spending money that should go to rent or groceries or bills is the point at which a person should probably stop playing. We don’t need those kind of sales.”
Statewide, each adult spent $200.11 playing the long odds last year, and Richmond County was one of about 30 counties that spent even more per adult.
It is also part of a belt of such counties extending to the east that spent more than $200 per adult on lottery tickets.
It extends to the south to New Hanover including all counties but Brunswick, and to the north to Johnston, Wayne, Greene and Pitt counties.
The only county to the west of Richmond that spent more than $200 per adult was Catawba.
However, Denton pointed out there may be a couple of factors inflating the amount of lottery sales in Richmond County.
“One thing that stands out to me, just looking at the map, is that Richmond is a border county,” he said. “There may be some people in South Carolina who prefer the North Carolina lottery games and come to your county to purchase them. Also, I believe there are two major highways in Richmond County in U.S. 74 and U.S. 1. Let’s say someone is going to the coast from Charlotte and stop off for gas, or to get a sandwich or some groceries, they may play the lottery in your county.”
While some may find the amount of cash Richmond County residents hand over to the lottery troubling, it actually wasn’t one of the counties with the highest per capita totals.
In Halifax, Edgecombe, Nash, Vance, Wilson, Lenoir, Washington and Hyde counties, residents spent more than $400 per adult. Nash County residents led the way in the state, spending about $536 on average, and more than $38 million total.
Denton also pointed out help is provided for gambling addicts at the NCEL Problem Gambling Helpline at (877) 718-5543. In addition, the NCEL sponsored a $233,000 advertising campaign solely to emphasize responsible play during the time period of these sales figures.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.