The economic downturn has been rough on a lot of businesses, but it’s been a boon for state lotteries.

Seems people who only have a few dollars to spare aren’t putting them away for a rainy day — they’re trying to parlay them into big bucks.

At least 24 state lotteries are reporting record-setting profits. In Minnesota alone, residents snapped up $520 million in tickets — $15.6 million more than last year.

And in Kentucky, where the unemployment rate is nine percent, lottery coffers are also overflowing, with Arch Gleason, Kentucky Lottery president and CEO, saying, “The economic conditions are definitely benefiting us.”

Ticket sales in Iowa are booming, too. “The stars definitely aligned for the lottery during the past 12 months,” said Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich. “We knew this year would be good, but wow.”

Most people know the chances of winning are lousy, so why are they spending what little money they have on a one-in-a-zillion shot?

“Tough times surely tap into the lure of a lottery,” said Ken Winters, a psychiatry professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “The odds are remote [but] human nature being what it is, it still attracts players. There’s so little downside. A dollar or two isn’t much when you can dream of the upside.”

[Time]