Local News

Top-Selling Counties Of Lottery Tickets Have High Unemployment Rates

Posted May 30, 2006 10:37 a.m. EDT

— Opening day for the Powerball was a busy day for Cruizers Gas Station on Raleigh Road in Wilson. It was one of the 10 busiest lottery retailers in the state when scratch tickets were first sold.

Lottery sales representatives promoted Powerball at Cruizers by giving away free hats and T-shirts to people who spent at least $10 on tickets.

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    Wilson County has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state and often ranks No. 1 in ticket sales per capita. Nine other North Carolina counties selling the most tickets per adult have unemployment rates above the state's average.

    "It is not unexpected," said state Sen. Janet Cowell. "I think that is what other states that have lotteries have seen."

    Cowell explained that is part of why she opposed the lottery all along.

    "It really is a regressive tax, essentially, that really impacts lower income communities, not higher income communities," she said.

    "I don't think that has any conflict with us," said Wilson County's Employment Security Commission manager, Terri Williams. "We're here to help them find work and to help them with unemployment until they can find work."

    Williams believes continued fallout from several plant layoffs and seasonal tobacco cuts are more to blame, but admits, "Of course, we hate to see the poor spending money on lottery tickets."

    Lottery Drector Tom Shaheen said he has heard the comparisons, but has never seen studies connecting lottery and unemployment. Lottery officials say advertisements for the lottery and offering gambling help will be distributed evenly across the state.

    "We will not target any particular area or any ethnic group ever," Shaheen said.

    Critics hope lottery officials will compare unemployment numbers and lottery sales and consider changing some sites if necessary.