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OKC’s poorest zip codes spend big bucks on lottery tickets

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Last year, Oklahomans bought $182 million in lottery tickets.

Per capita, that's almost $50 per person; every man woman and child living in the state.

When the jackpot shrinks, the lines dwindle and the allure fades, there remains a steadfast few who keep playing, week after week.

According to records obtained by the Oklahoma Lottery Commission about half of Oklahoma's 77 counties have more than $1 million in lottery sales each year.

Oklahoma County has the highest sales in the state with $47 million. Tulsa County has $27 million in retail sales.

Here are the counties with the highest annual sales per capita:

  • Texas County $84.23  per resident
  • Beckham County $77.03 per resident
  • Dewey County $76.28 per resident
  • Jackson County $76.25 per resident
  • Greer County $72.25 per resident

Locate your county on the interactive map below for information about poverty rates across Oklahoma.

According to Oklahoma Lottery Commission records, the areas of Oklahoma County with the most lottery retailers are in low-income zip codes where unemployment is high.

In the south OKC zip code 73129 there are 22 retailers where players can buy a lottery ticket.

Next door in 73119 there are 33 retailers.

However, there are only three lottery retailers in the Deer Creek area zip code 73012. In the north Edmond zip code 73025 there's only one business where you can buy a lottery ticket.

"Oklahomans deserve to know how much money the state is making off of the poorest among us," said Jonathan Small, the Executive Director for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA).

The OCPA believes what critics have said for years: poor people buy lottery tickets; those who can least afford to play spend a disproportionate amount of their income.

The average household income in the northwest Oklahoma County zip code 73025 is $124,289 a year. Retail sales in 73025 indicate household spending of $32.25 a year.

In south Oklahoma City, where US Census Bureau statistics indicate 39% of residents live below the poverty level, and the median household income is $27,400 a year, the annual per household lottery spending is ten times higher, $312 each year.

The following graphs shows the correlation between household income and lottery spending in Oklahoma.

"How people spend their money is their business," said Oklahoma House Representative Mike Shelton.

Shelton doesn't buy it. He says all kinds of people buy lottery tickets, the rich and the poor.

Shelton believes Oklahoma should focus on making the lottery run efficiently.

"If the lottery has the capability of raising revenue for our schools, to put teachers back to work, to make sure they're not cutting budgets, to make sure children have textbooks; we as a legislature should have the responsibility to be all ears to hear the ideas," Shelton said.

Shelton has authored a lottery bill four years running to increase lottery jackpots and bring more dollars into the classroom.

In some states, lottery organizers are strategic about putting retailers in low-income areas.

Oklahoma Lottery Commission Executive Director Rollo Redburn adamantly denies his agency targets poor players.

"We don't target anybody," Redburn said Oklahoma ticket sales follow the population and the traffic.

"That's where people are driving through to do go work, near the highway, near the main streets. If someone wants to do a legitimate study (about who is playing the lottery) they'll have to go to the stores. They'll have to interview people who come in and buy lottery," Redburn said.

The following graphic shows the correlation between education level and lottery spending as a percentage of household income.

Rich or poor, high income or low, the chances of winning big are about the same: slim to none.

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