Lotto sales up in poorer areas

The news: In August, the Illinois Lottery announced record-breaking sales of nearly $2.3 billion in fiscal year 2011, up 3 percent from last year.

Behind the news: The highest sales in Chicago, on a per-capita basis, came from predominantly African-American and Hispanic areas on the South and Southwest sides, shows a Chicago Reporter analysis of lottery sales data.

A combined amount of more than $87 million in lottery sales was recorded in five ZIP codes—60612, 60616, 60619, 60636 and 60651—that had the highest per-capita sales, which ranged from $287 to $425.

The median household income for each of these ZIP codes was below the citywide median of $38,625, according to the 2000 Census.

Sales from ZIP code 60619 alone generated more than $26 million—a per-capita spending of $425. The South Side area includes the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Avalon Park, Burnside, Calumet Heights and Chatham, and has a median household income of $33,631.

William A. Sampson, a professor of public policy studying poverty issues at DePaul University, said he was not surprised that lottery sales were increasing during a recession, or that poor neighborhoods generated the most sales in Chicago. Poor people have different motivations to play the lotto, he said.

“For folks with no income, it’s way more than the excitement,” Sampson said. “It’s part of their economic plan.”

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