Is The Lottery Worth Playing?
Article published on October 19, 2016 02:09pm
by BingoPort Reviewer
Many of you will have played the lottery at some point in your life. You might even spend a couple of quid every week, in the hopes that you might win the big money—after all, it happens to ordinary people all the time. But what actually are the odds of winning the lottery? Is the lottery even worth playing? BingoPort has all the answers for you!
The Lottery in the UK
Most of you will probably know how the lottery works, but we’ll breeze through it quickly just to make sure.
Most lotteries work by choosing around five or six numbers from a selection of around 50-60. For example, when playing Lotto, from the National Lottery, you choose six numbers from a selection of numbers 1-59; in the Health Lottery, meanwhile, players choose five numbers between 1 and 50.
Then, the lottery is drawn and the winning numbers are chosen—again, around five or six numbers chosen, depending on the exact game. If a few of your numbers (usually 3 or more) match the chosen numbers, then you’ll win a cash prize. If you match the chosen numbers exactly, then you’ll walk off with the jackpot—which could be worth millions!
The first lottery to be launched in the UK was The National Lottery, which remains the most popular lottery game in the country. The game was rebranded as Lotto in 2002, and the game’s operators, Camelot, have since launched a number of sister games, including Thunderball and EuroMillions. Altogether, these games produce over six million winners every week. 28% of the lottery’s revenue goes to funding ‘good causes’ through the Big Lottery Fund. To date, The National Lottery has raised over £20 billion for these causes, which include charity projects across the UK.
Whilst The National Lottery is still the best-known lottery in the UK, other lotteries have since launched, including The Health Lottery and the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Since 1994, when the UK’s first lottery was launched, the British public have fallen in love with the game. Just take a look at a few stats to get a better idea of how the UK went Lotto-mad:
- Britons spend an average of £416 a year on lottery tickets and scratchcards.
- 40% of people who gamble buy at least four tickets or scratchcards a week!
- Around 52% of people have never won a penny!
Most people who play the lottery wouldn’t really consider themselves a gambler. But lotteries are undeniably a form of gambling—though it might not come with the same kind of stigma as playing on slot machines. After all, you’re essentially betting on whether certain numbers will be drawn or not.
With between 15 and 45 million tickets being sold for every Lotto draw, it’s clearly a very popular game indeed. But is it worth it?
Let's take a look at the odds...
What Are The Odds Of Winning?
The idea of winning millions from the lottery is very appealing—it could solve all of your financial problems. So, what are the actual odds of winning?
The odds are pretty gloomy—but, of course, it all depends on what type of lottery you’re playing.
- To win the international EuroMillions lottery, you’ll need to match 5 numbers between 1 and 50, plus you’ll need to match the two “Lucky Stars” between 1 and 12. As you can tell, it’s a hard task—the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 76 million! As they say in France (one of nine countries where EuroMillions is available), sacrebleu!
- To win the best-known of all the UK lotteries, Lotto from The National Lottery, you’ll need to match six numbers between 1 and 59. This puts your odds of winning at a staggering 1 in 45 million! Hey, at least it’s easier than winning EuroMillions!
- One of the newer lotteries around is The Health Lottery. In this game, you need to match five numbers from a selection of 50. Though this is still pretty tough, its odds of 1 in 2 million make it a much easier proposition than winning some other games!
- A completely different twist on the game comes from the People’s Postcode Lottery. This game works not by drawing numbers, but instead by drawing players’ postcodes. This comes with one of the shortest jackpot odds around, at a (still quite high) 1 in 162,000.
Of course, your odds of winning become less likely with how big the jackpot is. The EuroMillions is transnational with huge jackpots, meaning that your chances of winning are much lower. In contrast, the Health Lottery jackpots are capped at £100,000, and the People’s Postcode Lottery has much smaller jackpots—which is why you have a better chance of winning.
Fun Fact: Lotto used to only have a choice of numbers from 1-49, which gave players a chance of 1 in 14 million of winning. In October 2015, they added ten more numbers, making it a selection from 1-59. These ten numbers made it three times more difficult for players to win the jackpot!
As you can see, the odds of winning a jackpot on any of these lotteries is pretty steep. In fact, you have better odds of…
- Becoming an astronaut: 1 in 12 million.
- Getting struck by lightning: 1 in 10 million.
- Getting hit by part of a plane falling from the sky: 1 in 10 million.
- Dying from flesh-eating bacteria: 1 in 1 million.
- Winning an Oscar: 1 in 11,500.
Pretty depressing, right?
Well, not necessarily. At least, it doesn’t actually stop anyone from playing. The lottery is just as popular as ever—despite people knowing how unlikely it is that they could actually win.
Can You Increase Your Odds?
Yes and No.
There are many out there who are convinced that there are foolproof ways to win the lottery, or specific methods that can increase their odds. There are articles on WikiHow, Forbes and the Telegraph, for example, that highlight this obsession with trying to come up with ways to ‘beat the system’. More often than not, it’s a pile of nonsense.
Some articles out there tell players that playing more frequently will increase their odds—which it won’t. Each time you play, your odds of winning stay the same—frequency has no effect. In fact, each time you play a new lottery, your odds are ‘reset’.
What Can You Do Then?
- Buy more tickets: the more you buy, the more you increase your odds. However, you’re still only increasing your odds minutely: buying 3 tickets still only increases your odds from 1 in 45 million to 3 in 45 million.
- Join a syndicate: if you’re playing with other people, you can increase your odds in the same way as the above step.
- Go for the smaller lotteries: playing the Health Lottery gives you better odds of winning than playing Lotto. However, this also means that the amount that you could win is a bit more limited.
So there’s no actual guarantee. Anyone claiming otherwise is either in denial, or trying to scam you. Winning the lottery is pure luck.
So Is It Worth It?
It all depends on how you look at it...
A Number Game
Mathematically, the lottery is definitely not something you should invest your money in. You’re essentially spending a few quid every week, and (most likely) not getting anything in return. If you’re playing The National Lottery twice a week, at a cost of £2 a ticket, you’re spending £208 a year, which is £2,080 in 10 years!
You could easily invest this money elsewhere, or save up a couple of quid a week—you could do a lot with £2,080.
On The Other Hand
While the odds aren’t in your favour, there’s still something to like about the lottery. Where else can you spend £2 a week for a ticket, and have the chance to win millions?
In fact, most people who play the lottery don’t even take the odds into consideration. They play the lottery because it’s nice to dream—you can buy a ticket and daydream about what your life could be like if you won. Would you carry on with your job? Or would you quit and go straight into retirement?
It Also Depends On Your Motives
Playing The Lottery To Earn Money
If you’re playing the lottery in a legitimate attempt to earn money, then you should definitely rethink playing. The lottery is not something you should be depending on for money. The odds of you winning are astronomical, so it’s not realistic to pin your chances on it—you’ll just end up spending more money than you should.
Playing The Lottery For Fun
It can definitely be worth playing if it’s strictly for a bit of fun. The lottery can be exciting and enjoyable, as you can ponder what your millionaire life would be like. Spending £2 a week for a bit of lighthearted entertainment can be worthwhile. Where else can you get so much tension and excitement?
Of Course. It's All About Moderation
The lottery is still a form of gambling, and some people can build up an addiction to it. So the key is moderation.
If you’re going to buy more tickets in a particular week, then don’t buy any more tickets for the next couple of weeks, just to even it out. Stick to a budget, and don’t stray from it. The lottery is worthwhile in moderation, as long as you’re aware that it’s only for fun!
So, Invest or Spend?
If you felt like your money would be better spent elsewhere, you could certainly invest your money in something that’s guaranteed to give you a return (albeit a much more modest one), like Premium Bonds.
Essentially, it’s all about Risk versus Reward. If you’re only spending a small amount to win big, then there isn’t much risk, and you could get a huge reward even if your chances are slim. If you’re risking a lot of money, then the reward won’t matter.
If you’re tight on money, then you should probably invest your money elsewhere, or limit yourself to a strict one ticket a week or month. If you know you’d end up spending that £2 elsewhere however, then it might be worthwhile to just have a little bit of fun and play the lottery!
Like most things, deciding on whether it’s worth playing the lottery depends on your motives. If you’re playing the lottery in an attempt to earn money, then you should rethink your entire strategy—you’re unlikely to ever get a return for all the money you’ve spent. On the other hand, like bingo, the lottery can be a nice break from the world—particularly for the entertainment value—especially if you’re only spending a couple of pounds a week.
Of course, if you’re still unsure—you could just stick to the great game of bingo!
Want to find out more about the gambling world and bingo? Check out BingoPort’s exclusive wagering requirements guide!