The pandemic shelter-in-place restrictions have an effect on increased alcohol and tobacco consumption, according to experts.

But a little known result is an increase in the buying of lottery tickets.

John Rowe, president of Speedy’s Convenient Inc., said over the last two months his stores have seen a substantial overall increase in the sale of lottery tickets.

“Over the last two months we’ve seen about a 9% increase in March and a 14% increase in April, so lottery sales are up,”Rowe said.

Rowe attributes the increase to people receiving stimulus checks in these past two months.

He believes the people who buy the most lottery tickets are the ones who can ill-afford it.

“I think it takes advantage of the impoverished and less educated,” he said. “People spending rent money and kids doing without.”

Rowe said that’s one reason why he doesn’t carry a lottery ticket over $5 in his stores.

“When you see kids in rags or not good clothes and their parents spending $50 on lottery tickets that breaks my heart,” he said.

Dr. James Jura, medical director for the Center, said he believes the stimulus money plays a role but there’s a psychological reason at play too.

“In times of crisis, we tend to grasp onto stuff that gives us hope and a feeling of control,” he said.

Jura said he also believes that high lottery ticket, alcohol and tobacco taxes unfairly burdens the poor.

However, according to the Casino.org website, lottery sales across the U.S. are down due to the coronavirus pandemic, as millions of Americans are on on lockdown.

As a result, last month Powerball slashed its beginning guaranteed minimum jackpot from $40 million to $20 million due to reduced sales. It also cut its guaranteed minimum rollover increase from $10 million to $2 million.

Other sources said lottery scratch-off ticket sales are soaring.

For example, in Oklahoma, total lottery sales were just over $7.7 million for the week ending April 25, up about 75% compared with the same time last year, driven almost entirely by scratch-offs. That included nearly $5.9 million in scratch-off sales, up from $2.5 million last year according to Jay Finks, Marketing director for the Oklahoma Lottery.

Les Bernal, national director for Stop Predatory Gambling, said “People play state lotteries when they are financially desperate. We have 30 million people who are unemployed.”

Alonzo Weston can be reached at alonzo.weston@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.