Study: Liquor costs more at state-owned stores than in private stores

Boston University-led study examines prices in control states vs. license states

NEW YORK — Liquor can cost $2 more at liquor stores in states where the government has a monopoly on sales than at privately owned stores, according to a new study.

Researchers at Boston University School of Public Health, the Boston Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University analyzed the prices of 74 different alcohol brands in 13 "control states" — states where the government has a monopoly on liquor sales — and at 50 private retailers in "license states." The study appeared online in the journal Addiction.

The researchers, led by Boston University professor Michael Siegel, found that the average price for liquor was $27.79 in the license states, versus $29.82 in the control states.

In November 2011, voters in Washington passed a ballot initiative to legalize private sales of liquor in the state. Initiative 1183, which received most of its financial support from Issaquah, Wash.-based club retailer Costco Wholesale, converted Washington from a control state to a license state. Washington's liquor-control laws dated back to the aftermath of Prohibition and were put in place as a way to continue limiting the sales and consumption of liquor.

The remaining control states, such as Pennsylvania and Utah, exercise varying degrees of control over sales of alcohol, with Utah requiring most alcoholic beverages to be sold in state-owned stores, for example. Other states still place limits on the kinds of retailers that can sell alcohol, such as New York, which only allows liquor and most wine to be sold in boutique liquor stores.

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