Lottery excitement has a dark side

(CBS News) No doubt you've heard there's a big lottery drawing Wednesday night.

This jackpot is at least $550 million dollars, a record for Powerball.

160 million tickets have been sold.

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The odds of winning are less than one in 175 million.

It's a harmless dream for most people. But for a few, it's a dangerous gamble.

Florida sold 20,000 Powerball tickets a minute Wednesday.

But Lisa Metzler didn't buy one. The letter carrier is fighting an addiction to gambling that cost her $70,000 -- as much as $10,000 on scratch-off lottery tickets.

"Gambling flipped my life upside down," Metzler said. "I shut out my family, shut out my friends, it was all I wanted to do ... I was hooked from day one."

Metzler got help after she called a hotline run by the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling. But last year, Florida cut its budget by a million and a half dollars while spending $30 million on lottery advertising.

"A lot of the funding that our organization received was utilized for marketing and outreach, because we know that's how we get help to the people who need it," said Pat Fowler, who heads the council.

Pat Fowler, head of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.
Pat Fowler, head of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.
CBS News

Six states - Florida, Nevada, New York, Iowa, Missouri and Rhode Island -- have cut help for compulsive gamblers as they've expanded gambling. For example, New York cut 41 programs, but spent $85 million advertising its lottery.

State-approved gambling generates more than $20 billion, twice as much as movie ticket sales

Powerball profits fund schools and scholarships -- $45 million in Florida alone since the last jackpot. But lottery hoopla can hide some of the costs financial, and human.

"People out there need help and if they don't give the funding that is needed for this, there's gonna be so many more cases like mine," Metzler said.

So who's buying all those Powerball tickets? Well, there are buyers across the board, but a report out of Texas this year found less-educated and more minority residents spent the most money per capita on lottery games. They spend about $55 a month, much of it on scratch-off lottery tickets, considered the most addictive kind.

  • Anna Werner

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