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A dollar and a less lucky dream

    It's well established that a disproportionate number of lottery retailers are in the poorest neighborhoods of New York, where the lure of a $1 and a dream is strong.

   But now, an analysis by The Buffalo News found that, not only are the poor more likely to buy lottery tickets, they are more likely to lose as well.

   That's not because poor people are any more or less lucky at lottery than wealthier people. Instead, it's a reflection of the type of lottery games people in poor communities tend to play.

   While suburban lottery players tend to buy instant scratch-off tickets, those in poor urban centers tend to play online daily numbers games.

    Lottery officials figure it traces back to the roots of the game.

   Illegal numbers games were the precursor to the lottery, so it makes sense that communities where illegal numbers were popular continue showing an interest in the online games offered by the state, speculated Lottery Director Gordon Medenica.

   Whatever the historical reason, the reality is that instant scratch-off games return more money in the New York State Lottery than do online games.

   Between 60 and 75 percent of the money spent on individual scratch-off games is, by law, returned to players as prize money while the amount returned in most online numbers games is 50 percent. One online game, Lotto, returns just 40 percent.

   Lottery officials say they know poor, generally minority neighborhoods tend to play more daily online games than buy scratch-off tickets, so therefore generally win less.

   But, state officials said, that's not something they control.

   "We are not telling people what to play," Medenica said. "We're agnostic as to what games
people play.

   Tell us what you think.

   Should the state even out the odds for the instant and online games?

   … Patrick Lakamp
     Susan Schulman

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