There’s a tiny chance of winning the lottery, but that doesn’t stop Americans from buying tickets. This past year, income from state lotteries was a combined $66.8 billion.
LendEDU, a student loan marketplace, conducted a study that looked at states that spent the most on lottery tickets. The study consisted of 43 states. The seven states not included were Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming because they don’t have their own state lottery. The study measured lottery spending per capita, calculated by dividing a state’s lottery revenue by its population.
Luck for Your Buck
People spend a lot on the lottery. If we divide the income made by all of the U.S. lotteries by the population of the U.S., each American spends an average of $206.69 on lottery tickets per year. (Don’t let lotto tickets put you in debt. See where your credit stands before trying to get lucky by checking two credit scores for free on Credit.com.)
Unsurprisingly, the most populated and largest states make the most revenue from the lottery. The top three states with the most profit? New York, California and Florida. Although these states make the most, their residents aren’t necessarily buying the most tickets. In fact, California didn’t even make it in the top 15 states that spend the most on lotto tickets per capita. Here are the 15 states that did.
It’s that time of year again when tax refunds are on everyone’s mind. A tax refund check can be a wonderful addition to your checking account; a sizable amount can even bring new financial opportunities your way. But if you don’t spend that check from Uncle Sam responsibly, it can also put you in debt. Here are some things you might want to avoid when you get your tax refund.
1. Spending the Money Before You Receive It
One of the worst things you can do is spend your tax refund before you’ve even received it. Even if you got a head start on tax season and you know the amount you will receive, you might not want to spend your refund until you have the check in hand. If your refund is delayed, you may be strapped for cash until the check comes in — or worse, wind up in debt. (Debt can damage your wallet — and your credit. You can see how your credit currently fares by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
2. Go on a Massive Shopping Spree
Splurging on a big-ticket item or going on a spending spree is a quick way to kiss your tax refund goodbye. If you’re already in debt because of your poor spending habits, try not to dig yourself into a deeper hole. Rather than spend this money on unnecessary items, which can lead to buyer’s remorse, consider using this money to help you pay off your previous spending.
3. Deposit the Money Into Your Checking Account
While you may think stashing your tax refund in a checking account will prevent you from spending it right away, it won’t do you much good there. Without a plan for your refund, chances are it will remain in your checking account and later be spent on small, everyday purchases. If you’re unsure of what to do with your tax refund, consider other places to store it. You may want to place it in a checking account that bears interest or a mutual fund to make a return.
4. Pay for Upgrades You Don’t Need
Of course, that new iPhone is slimmer and shinier, but is there something wrong with your current phone? When it comes to upgrades, it’s important to first address your needs. When you make an upgrade based on a want rather than a need, you may be quickly wasting your refund. Consider upgrades that will save you money in the long run, such as an energy-efficient appliance, or upgrades that will increase the value of your home like kitchen renovations.
For many, a tax refund, like credit cards, is viewed as free money. While it may be thrilling to know you can double this “free money” on red or black at the casino, there’s also the chance you can lose this cash. You may think you’re right where you left off before tax season, but this is not the case. Consider putting your refund to good use by investing or increasing contributions to retirement funds. This way you can still increase your refund, but with much less risk.
Perhaps your idea of a perfect weekend is flying to Las Vegas, picking out the casino games with the best odds, and allotting yourself a set amount of money to gamble. Maybe this is how you choose to spend the entertainment money in your budget, or you’re meeting your friends for a weekend getaway.
Whatever the case, gambling can start out as a perfectly controlled activity. However, it can quickly become an issue for your well-being — both in relationships and financially speaking — if you’re not watching for warning signs. Unfortunately, having a gambling problem isn’t totally abnormal in the United States.
Like many addictive behaviors, the problem with gambling addiction isn’t the gambling itself — it’s how an individual responds to that activity. In fact, someone with a gambling addiction experiences the same effects in the brain as someone who is an alcoholic, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.
“The gambling alters the person’s mood and the gambler keeps repeating the behavior attempting to achieve that same effect. But just as tolerance develops to drugs or alcohol, the gambler finds that it takes more and more of the gambling experience to achieve the same emotional effect as before,” the council explains.
While you might not think a gambling problem is much to worry about, the American Psychiatric Association lists pathological (or compulsive) gambling as an addictive disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, one of the key sources health professionals rely on for mental diagnoses. In addition to the toll it can take on relationships, a gambling addiction can also greatly impact your budget and financial picture.
Gambling’s Effect on Finances
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling in a paper titled “Problem Gamblers and Their Finances”, someone who becomes addicted to gambling will go through three main stages: the winning phase (when they discover gambling is exciting); the losing phase (when their losses begin to catch up with them); and the desperation phase (when the gambler finds themselves in dire financial straits in order to keep funding their compulsion to gamble). As those stages progress, the gambler’s perception of money mutates.
Money is no longer a means for achieving goals, having financial freedom, or for establishing security. “Instead, money to the gambler has only one value: to enable the gambler to keep gambling, to stay ‘in action,’” the paper explains. “This corrupted view of the value of money is why problem gamblers may do anything to obtain money to keep gambling — lying, borrowing, even stealing.”
This statement, of course, assumes that most compulsive gamblers have already begun maxing out their budgets and their credit cards, along with draining their bank balances, to support their addiction — behaviors that are the norm for people ensnared in an addictive cycle.
Unfortunately, even compulsive gamblers who are able to pay their bills will still struggle with the addiction itself — the issue isn’t just a money problem.
“Problem gambling is an emotional problem that has financial consequences. If you pay all of a problem gambler’s debts, the person will still be a problem gambler,” the council explains on its FAQ page.
The Warning Signs of a Gambling Addiction
Of course, most people won’t take a trip to Vegas and come home ready to offer their homes as collateral to support their new gambling habit. But for some, the pastime can become an obsession that consumes their thoughts and their income.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling’s FAQ page, about 2 million Americans would qualify as pathological gamblers each year. Another 4 to 6 million people are considered “problem gamblers,” which means they’re not fully addicted but display one or more of the symptoms and are at risk for becoming compulsive gamblers.
The council provides several warning signs of compulsive gambling. If you or a loved one display these signs, it might be time to seek guidance from a health professional.
You’re constantly thinking about gambling.
You find yourself needing to bet more money, and bet more often, to get the same thrill you did when you started gambling.
You experience restlessness or irritability when you try to stop gambling.
You have begun “chasing” losses in attempts to recoup your money.
Despite mounting financial woes and even perhaps struggles with loved ones, you can’t stop the urge to continue gambling.
You get a thrill from taking big gambling risks.
You relive past gambling experiences.
You conceal or lie about gambling.
You feel guilt or remorse after gambling.
You borrow money or steal it in order to keep funding your gambling habit.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms or you believe a loved one is, the National Council for Problem Gambling provides a 24-hour help line at 1-800-522-4700. You can also check out the council’s list of help resources in each state, so you can find local assistance as well.