We Sold A Winner

If you want to experience the widening income inequality at the root of our divided country, pay a visit to your local convenience store. In 2015 Americans spent $73.87 billion trying to become the next millionaire and in Massachusetts, we have the highest per capita lottery spending in the nation. Rather than raise taxes on those at the top, or close corporate tax loop holes, legislators in forty-four states rely on lottery revenue to prop up shrinking state budgets.

Players range from the most economically challenged members of our communities to middle class workers using a monthly or weekly lottery allowance. After selling a winning jackpot, stores acquire a lucky aura. Some owners receive a bonus commission, but the amount varies wildly from state-to-state. Also, Oklahoma and Georgia pay no commission on top selling instant scratch games, and when a winning ticket goes unclaimed, NY State withholds the bonus. In the shadow of someone else’s lucky day, owners, clerks and customers share increasing financial uncertainty.

I follow the trail of winning jackpots ranging from $1million to as much as $415 million, back to the mom and pop stores where the winning ticket was sold. I talk to owners, clerks and customers, left in the wake of a sum of money most say would “solve all their problems”. Such concerns are at the heart of lottery America so I cut out them out, letter-by-letter, from discarded scratch tickets. After six years of peeling back each complex layer of this booming, yet invisible economy, I seek to evoke greater empathy for our neighbors whose contributions to community coffers are so casually taken for granted.