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A man holds a bundle of Mega Millions lottery tickets that he just purchased in San Francisco, Calif. - 


Steve Chiotakis: It's a more than $250 million jackpot.
And, yes, there're a lot of people buying up a lot of tickets to the 12-state Mega Millions lottery game. Maybe you think lotteries fare better than other spending during tough economic times. And some research backs that up. But Jill Barshay reports lotteries aren't as recession-proof as they used to be.

Tony Cash: This is a big number right now

Jill Barshay: Tony Cash owns a restaurant in New York. He's barely surviving in this economy, but he still plunked down 10 bucks on lottery tickets.

Cash: So if we hit this number, it's like retirement for the whole family.

Lottery ticket sales are down 3 percent in the first half of this year nationally. That's according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government. But states are hoping that huge jackpots like the Mega Millions will generate lots of revenue.

Gordon Medenica is the director of the New York Lottery. He says people used to think that lotteries do well no matter what, but this recession shows that lotteries are vulnerable to consumer sentiment.

Gordon Medenica: I wouldn't say it's recession-proof. No because at the real darkness of it, the first quarter of this year, was certainly one of the worst quarters that we've had in years.

But Medenica says lotteries are doing much better than most sectors of the economy. With gas prices lower than last summer, he says people have more spend on the lotto -- and New York's lottery is already starting to recover.

In New York, I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.