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Americans' Lottery Spending: Who Spends Most And Where?05:57
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A gas station employee reaches for a lottery ticket in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, May 14, 2015.  (AP/Danny Johnston)
A gas station employee reaches for a lottery ticket in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, May 14, 2015. (AP/Danny Johnston)
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Americans spent $70 billion on the lottery in 2014, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, which looked at spending in the 43 states where lotteries are legal.

The Atlantic's Derek Thompson calculates that's more than $230 for every man, woman and child in states where the lottery is legal - more than Americans in all 50 states spent on sports tickets, books, video games, movie tickets and recorded music sales.

He writes in The Atlantic that the national average for lottery spending hides a lot of the variance:

In North Dakota, per-capita lottery spending is a pittance at just $36 a year. In South Dakota, however, it’s an egregious $755 per head. Lotto games bring in the most money per person in the mid-Atlantic and northeast: number-one Rhode Island (nearly $800 per capita!), Massachusetts, and Delaware are among the top five states, while New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania join them in the top 13 (so does Washington, D.C.).

Thompson joins Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson to discuss the states where lottery spending is highest, and the morality of states earning money this way.

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This segment aired on May 18, 2015.

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