These finding were part of research commissioned by the National Lottery Board, now the National Lottery Commission (NLC), and published in 2011.
The research sought to establish community behaviour and participation in the lottery, the extent of problem gambling and the propensity to spend on lottery games.
The findings on the extent that poor and low income earners play the lottery in South Africa is largely in line with most countries where the poor, hoping to become rich-quick, are major supporters of lotteries.
The research was conducted among a sample of 2,500 respondents over 18-years-old, over three months, in 2010. The sample comprised of 800 randomly selected households who took part over the phone and a further 1,700 households living in townships, informal settlements and rural villages, who took part in face-to-face interviews.
Their research found that 39.3% played the lottery and while participation declined from 2003 to 2010, poorer people played the lottery more regularly than those with higher incomes.
The average lottery player was a 35-year-old unemployed African male, with a primary education and a monthly income of less than R1,000 per month.
One of their main concerns was what people were willing to sacrifice to be able to spend more money on playing the lottery.
The majority of these sacrifices (71%) included household necessities, while a further 19% used savings to play.
When it came to actually winning the lottery - a one in 13.9 million chance in South Africa - most (58%) participants said they would save it if they won.
The same amount of people said they would either use it to buy basic items or luxury items.
Nearly 10% said they would spend it on gambling or buying even more lottery tickets.
When it came to the impact of gambling, 54% said winning from the lottery had helped them financially, most (71%) admitted they had lost more than they won and 8% said they had borrowed money to play the lottery.
The Gaming the Lottery investigation is an international collaboration involving media and student and professional journalists from Africa, Europe and the United States. Key partners include Columbia Journalism School, Open Up and PennLive and Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which provided research support. The Fund for Investigative Journalism and Trust Africa supported this project.