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Odds of winning the Lottery - The real value of a Lottery Ticket

Illigal Lottery

The Lottery is illegal in some countries while in other countries it is endorsed and a national lottery has been organised to harness the income from gambling for good causes. Britain has one of the largest and most successful national lotteries in the world.

In the early days of the Lottery, at the beginning of the C20th, most lotteries were illegal, along with most forms of gambling. This may have had as much to do with the religious culture of the time. Lotteries were therefore illegal in most of Europe and the USA.


Statistically of course, there would most likely be a rollover, as it would be highly unlikely that any of the mere 100 tickets sold in this example would match a number drawn.  This can mean that if ticket sales are low in a given week, the number drawn may not be matched by any of the tickets sold, prompting a rollover into the following week’s draw.

Where a Lottery allows a buyer to select their own numbers (rather than choose from a set of pre-determined numbers), this gives rise to the possibility of more than one winner (if several people choose the same winning number) or no winners at all (if none choose the winning number). This is what happens in the National Lottery.

Gambling and Lotteries legimate form of entertainent

Lotteries remained generally illegal until after WW2. However governments eventually saw the tax advantages of licensing and legalising casinos, and along with the legalisation of casinos in the 1960’s (which was also a more liberal culture generally, as evidenced by the era of the Beatles), so lotteries became more acceptable within society and to lawmakers.

A country’s laws are reflective of the culture of a society in general.  As society accepted gambling as a legitimate form of entertainment, rather than as a source of addiction and penury, so lotteries became legalised and eventually, as the money came rolling in, the idea of a National Lottery was adopted by the State as another means of generating revenue in addition to regular taxation.

Lottery for a pound

Given the odds are so low, why do people even bother playing the lottery. Firstly, the amount ‘invested’ is minimal, while the leverage of that investment, if it wins, is very high indeed. Secondly, for the time between buying the ticket and finding out if we had won or not, we can indulge our fantasy of maybe, just maybe, winning, and how we would spend that money. Many a time I have bought a lottery ticket and gone to bed happily imagining I had won. These happy dreams really do get the old endorphins flowing; there isn’t much else you can buy for a pound that makes you feel that good.

Lotteries' prizes

Lotteries may either be for a fixed amount of cash, a pre-determined set of goods, or based on the total tickets sold. Where the prize is for a fixed amount of cash or goods, the lottery promoter is at risk if he does not sell enough tickets, inasmuch as the fixed prize may be of greater value than the sum total of tickets sold and revenue generated.

Consequently most lotteries offer prizes based on a fixed percentage of total ticket sales. In theory if the National Lottery only sold 100 tickets in a week, then the maximum prize would be a percentage (the most common percentage being around 50% of tickets sold allocated to winnings) of the sum total received in ticket sales – 50% of £100 being £50. This would not be good news for that week’s jackpot winner.

What’s the real value of a Lottery Ticket?

The real value for the 14 million people
who will not win the jackpot,
is an infinity of momentary happiness,
as the nation goes to bed feeling all warm
and cuddly at the thought of what
they are going to buy with their winnings.

Dream Lottery

We are all essentially optimists, full of hope, and the Lottery serves a useful purpose in helping us to dream, if not to actually fulfil our dreams. This is the real value of your lottery ticket.  You will discover that even greater value can be extracted from your ticket by NOT checking it for a few weeks, thus enabling you to virtually convince yourself you have won, as you reach ever higher levels of hope and general happiness. The trick then is to buy another ticket immediately, so you can continue having optimistic hopes of winning.

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