Gambling high on holiday gift list
By Burton Speakman
It’s Christmas season, but instead of looking for candy or toys, a number of adults will receive lottery scratch-off tickets under the tree, in stockings or with a card.
Betsy Koch, an employee at Lucky Lotto in Boardman, said someone will come in and make a large purchase of the cards as gifts at least a couple of times a week this time of year. She estimated sales of the tickets might go up as much as 50 percent in December.
“I had one lady buy $120 in cards [Dec. 11],” she said. “There are also people who come in and buy whole books.”
Most of the holiday tickets cost $1 and come in books of 200, Koch said.
Another man earlier in the week bought $280 in scratch-off tickets, she said.
“A lot of people give out lottery tickets. I myself have bought a couple and given them out with cards,” Koch said.
The regulars who buy these tickets throughout the year also come in during the Christmas season, but most people buy the holiday tickets because they’re newer, she said. They believe newer games offer the best chance to win.
Another popular activity this time of year is that people will buy the scratch-off tickets for a basket or to make a “lottery tree,” Koch said.
The $1 boxes of tickets sell pretty quickly, said Stacy Snyder, an employee at Lucky 7 Express on Midlothian Boulevard in Youngstown.
“People buy them as stocking stuffers,” she said. “They sell outrageously.”
It seems like someone comes in for those tickets every five or 10 minutes this time of year, said Steve Tsarnas, owner of Lucky 7 Express. Most of the sales are the tickets designed for Christmas.
“The lottery even gives us Christmas cards, with candy canes, for people to use to give out the tickets,” he said.
Jim Stevenson of Youngs-town said he has been buying scratch-off tickets as gifts for years.
It’s a gift you don’t have to think about, he said.
November and December generally have the highest number of sales for instant tickets, said Danielle Frizzi-Babb, spokeswoman for the Ohio Lottery Commission.
“While we don’t track what our players do with their tickets, our holiday campaign does market them as gifts,” she said. “Each year we introduce seven holiday instant tickets that offer higher payouts on the $1 and $2 price points.”
The lottery commission begins selling its holiday instant tickets in October, Frizzi-Babb said.
“The second quarter, which includes October, November and December, accounts for almost 27 percent of our annual sales,” she said.
The New Year also brings a rush of lottery purchases.
“Another thing that is popular this time of year are the New Year’s raffle tickets,” Koch said.
These tickets are popular because the state sells only a limited number of them, she said.
Another reason people gamble around the New Year is that tradition says it’s lucky to gamble at that time, Tsarnas said.