Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lotteries up when chips are down, by Clancy Yeates - Fairfax - 30th July 2009

Retired wharfies Robert May and Geoff Hurley buy the odd lottery ticket, but this week they’re shelling out more than usual.

With four friends, they often play the card game 500 at Dawn Fraser Baths in Balmain, and the losers chip in about $5 each to buy a lottery ticket for the group.

Yesterday, however, Mr May and Mr Hurley spent $23.10 on a ‘‘megapick’’ ticket in the hope of striking it lucky in tonight’s $80 million Powerball draw.

‘‘We spent a little bit extra,’’ Mr May said outside a newsagency in Pyrmont. ‘‘We were only going to buy a $12 one, but instead we bought a $23 one.’’

Despite having a one in 55 million chance of winning with one game, a growing number of people appears to be doing the same thing as the economy slows. Casinos and pokie dens might be doing it tough, but the recession seems to be having the opposite effect on high-prizemoney, low-probability lotteries.

Australians are expected to spend $100 million on tickets for tonight’s draw, after last month’s OZ Lotto $106.5 million draw created the country’s two second-richest lottery winners.

Latest available figures from 2007-08 show OZ Lotto and Powerball are the only games in NSW to post a substantial rise in sales since 2000-01, with sales declining across instant scratchies and 6 from 38 Pools.

A clinical psychologist at Sydney University’s Gambling Research Unit, Alex Blaszczynski, said people shifted from other gambling into lotteries because it seemed to be good value in gloomy times. ‘‘When you’ve got a $1 outlay and a you’ve got a $80 million potential prize, [even during] financial crisis, you can sill afford to gamble rather than going down to the pub for the machines,’’ Professor Blaszczynski said. ‘‘It appears to be good value, even though the probabilities are bugger-all.’’

Latest figures show NSW residents spent $1.2 billion on lottery tickets in 2007-08, up more than 25 per cent from $939 million a decade earlier.

Jacqui Lindsay, a teller at the state’s biggest seller of lottery tickets since 2000-01, Eastgardens Newsagency, said she had thought lottery sales would fall with the recession. But they have been as steady as ever. ‘‘When the big jackpots are on it just goes berserk,’’ she said. (Credit: Fairfax)

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