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Gallup Poll: 60 Percent of Americans Have Played Lottery in Past 12 Years

Aired May 5, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: All it takes is $1 and a dream, along with an incomprehensible amount of luck to win $230 million in the Big Game lottery. The drawing is tonight and the tickets are pouring out of machines in Georgia, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey. The odds of winning are one in 76 million, but if you're tempted to buy 76 million tickets, remember: multiple winners split the pot.

And if you can afford that...

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, you don't need to be playing the lottery.

You don't need us to tell you lotteries are popular, but you may be surprised to find out who plays most.

Frank Newport joins us from the Gallup studio in Princeton, New Jersey. He's been looking into that -- Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR IN CHIEF: Natalie, it's interesting because, a moment ago, we had that very interesting story from Louisville about the Kentucky Derby, and now the lottery story. There's no question about it: The lottery, in terms of gambling in America, just overwhelms playing the horses, which used to be kind of the only way that you could gamble in this country.

This is our Gallup Poll social audit on gambling we did last year, to give you some background, and this is the percent of Americans who said they have done these things within the last year when we interviewed them. Way over there is playing the horses, and that's just 9 percent of Americans, a very low-frequency activity. And then the office pool casino gambling just at a third. But look here: Well over half, about six out of 10 Americans say that they have played the lottery within the last 12 years.

Now, interestingly, that really hasn't changed. We first asked about lottery playing back about 10 years ago, back in 1989, and that was 54 percent then. So despite the apparent increase in these huge pots, like we're seeing now in the Big Game, the number who play the lottery stayed roughly the same.

Now, the amount of money that's wagered: This is an important question because some people always worry that people are giving away too much money or losing too much money. It's really pretty low amounts. We asked lottery players: What's the average amount you spent per month on the lottery? the median is about $5; 39 percent of lottery players actually spent $4 or less, then 25 percent, 29 percent $10 to $29. And a very low number over here, if you can see it: Just 6 percent of lottery players spend $30 or more a month. Probably more than that right now in the Big Game, but, overall, pretty low amounts of money in the lottery.

Finally, that question about who plays the lottery: It's not poor people. You might think they'd be the ones trying to get rich, but 53 percent of those with low incomes, on the left, play the lottery. Most lottery players are in the middle-income groups. The highest, right here, those of us making $45,000 to $75,000 a year, about two-thirds play the lottery.

So that's where the background information is on the lottery. If you all have tickets there, best of luck to you.

Natalie, I hope you win.

ALLEN: OK, Frank. I don't have one. I've got to get going.

Well, lottery players who know their history know they're not just gambling, they are continuing an American tradition. In fact, the first recorded American lottery predates America itself. It was 1612 in Jamestown, and the proceeds made up half the town's budget. Late in the following century, George Washington used a lottery to support the revolutionary army. Today, lotteries in 37 states and the District of America finance education, transportation and prison construction.

HALL: We always keep you edified here.

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