We Sold A Winner

I look closely at main street America through the lens of state-run lotteries. By focusing on the people and places at the heart of this robust economy, I offer an alternative to the familiar media image of ebullient winners holding a large facsimile check. My photographs represent an overlooked side of income inequality.   

Lotteries are complicated. Despite studies that consistently prove the most frequent players are the most economically challenged (the poor, disabled and unemployed), legislators in 44 states continue to rely on lotteries to raise badly needed revenue in lieu of raising taxes. On street corners across the country these states are in the business of selling hope through hype. And our communities depend on the revenue.

I concentrate on small, neighborhood family-run convenience stores and marketplaces because besides being the largest retailers of lottery products, they are often a gathering place for their community. Some owners are new immigrants while others are the third or fourth generation to run the family business. After they sell a winning ticket, their store becomes known as lucky, inciting a buying frenzy among local players that produces huge ticket sales. Whether you are pro, con or indifferent about lotteries, these sites and their sales provide benefits for everyone. 

Across the country small shop owners, clerks and players are working harder, longer hours. For most of them, financial security remains unattainable. I follow the trail of lottery jackpots across the country seeking ways to change the conversation and evoke greater empathy for these people, places, and a resilient American dream.