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Per capita income down, lottery
sales up

By L. Nicole Trottie, Publisher
Contributions Jacques Conway

Poor play more, but win less among west suburban lottery
players

Nearly three decade after its roll out the Illinois lottery is big
business, raking in over $1 billion in profit its fiscal year 2002,
but the revenues don’t add up for poor and predominately
black communities.

Black folks do most of the playing, but not most of the winning,
according to the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction
Problems (ILCAAAP).  

The organization, active in the prevention of addiction
problems, is a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to
prevent problems caused by alcohol, other drugs, and
gambling.  According to the ILCAAAP analysis records of the
Illinois Lottery, poor neighborhoods spend more money per
capita then wealthier communities but cash in far less.

The West Suburban Journal zip code analysis of Illinois Lottery
ticket sales for fiscal year 2008, 2007 and 2006 revealed that
two of the six communities located within our study, located
within a 5 mile radius, have the highest unemployment rate and
highest lottery ticket sales per capita.

According to Illinois Lottery records, zip code 60104, which
includes Bellwood, and 60153, which includes Maywood,
generated in fiscal year 2008 combined lottery sales revenue
of $12,330,871.  Both zip codes, 60104 and 60153, have a
black population greater than 90 percent, according to the U.S.
Census Bureau.  Additionally, both zip codes have the highest
unemployment rate in 2008 of the six zip codes in out study;
9.70 percent and 11.50 percent respectively.  

The remaining four communities in our study, Broadview,
Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest rank higher in per
capita income and substantially lower in the 2008
unemployment rankings, according to census reports but invest
less per capita in lottery tickets.  

Paul Wade, owner of Wade’s Liquor and Groceries located at
1418 Madison Street in Maywood, stopped selling lottery tickets
in December of 2007.  “I turned in my lotto machine and instant
tickets two years ago,” Wade said.  

Wade said his decision was based on a discrepancy with the
Illinois Lottery over commissions they allege he owes and not
ticket sales.  “The lottery claims I owe $3,000 for weekly
commissions, but I don’t so I stopped selling tickets,” Wade said.

Wade, a life-long resident of Maywood, sold lottery tickets at
his store on Madison Street for 20 years.  “It’s a big industry in
the black community,” he said about lottery sales.  

“That blacks are the biggest contributors of the lotto is a fact.  
We subscribe to chasing a buck,” he added.  And Wade is
correct.

It’s a fact that people in less affluent communities spend a
higher proportion of their incomes on the lottery than people in
more affluent areas studies show. Bellwood and Maywood, two
of the communities in our study among the highest
unemployment rate have also the lowest per capita income;
$19,363 and $14,982 respectively.  River Forest, a 90 percent
white population, according to the census, in stark contrast to
Bellwood and Maywood, has a $46,123 per capita income and
4 percent unemployment rate contributed in 2008 only
$2,841,119 to lottery sales revenues.

Rachel, who is a Latino young woman employed at the BP
located at 1st Avenue and Madison Street in Maywood, said all
her lottery customers, except one, are black.  According to
Rachel she has over several dozen regular customers.  Rachel
had no hesitation in expressing to me [a black woman] during
our interview that “the black people spend all their money on
the lotto”.

She says about her customers, many of whom are jobless, that
they are very resourceful about making money toward the
purchase of lottery tickets.

“They stand outside the store selling their Link [government
assistance money] cards to the highest bidder,” Rachel said.  
“They sell a card with $50 for $20 and use the money to buy
lottery tickets… cheap stuff for like .75 cents or less and gas,”
she added.

“I have a customer with five kids and no job.  She wears new
clothes everyday and comes in the store to play $30 to $40 a
day in lottery tickets.”  

Fred, a resident of Maywood, who hurried into the BP to buy
his lottery ticket’s said he plays daily.  By his calculations he
spends about $7 a week.  “I play $1 for three instant tickets,”
Fred said.  When asked if he gets a return on his dollar he
said, “You win when it falls, but it doesn’t fall everyday.”

Edward Cunningham of Chicago feeling lucky stopped in the
BP to buy a few tickets.  Cunningham said he plays a couple
times a month. “I play twice a month about $4 to $5 dollars
each time.”  Cunningham admits he loses more than he wins.  
“It’s a game of chance and beats going to the gambling boat.”  
“Times are hard,” he added.

“The people who live on Link, have a lot of children, are
unemployed and go to church play most often,” according to
Rachel.

Perhaps Sunday church sermons are sending black folks out to
pasture with false hope or blind faith because that’s BP’s
busiest day for lotto sales, according to Rachel.  “On Sunday,
after the black people leave church, they rush in to play,”
Rachel said.  “I have longer lines for the lottery on Sunday’s
than I have for gas or groceries.”  

Rachel adds that elderly people, age “50 and up, spend the
most money on tickets”.  “They spend like $20 a day,” she
said.  “I have an 80-year-old customer who spends $50 to $60
each day for 5 or 6 days then he doesn’t come back for a
couple weeks until he gets his social security check and comes
back to play again.”  

Illinois Lottery spokesperson Laura Lehman did not respond to
our request for lottery retailers and ticket sales by zip code by
our print deadline.
Fred Cunningham, who plays the lottery
twice a month, says, "it's cheaper than the
gambling boat"
Paul Wade, owner of Wade's Liquor and
Groceries located at 1418 Madison in
Maywood.