The Chances of Winning the Lotto

There are many lotteries called “Megabucks” thoughout the United States, similar in many ways to the Canadian “Lotto 6-49”.

Winning the lottery is how many people believe they will become financially secure in their lives. In fact, about one person in 4 believe  this.

The chances of winning a lottery like the Massachusetts Megabucks lotto or the Ontario Lotto 6-49 are based in the idea that, out of 49 numbers available, you choose 6 numbers once each. Chosen that way, there are 13,983,816 ways of winning, or close to 14 million ways. If you have only one lotto ticket, then your chances are 1/13,983,816 = 0.000000715, give or take a billionth or two.

It would be fun to summarize what those chances are actually like in relation to other things.  Here we go, from my research:

  • You are 500 times more likely to die by murder or execution
  • You are 248 times more likely to be struck by lightning
  • You are 140 times more likely to die from a bee sting or a snake bite
  • You are 21.5 times more likely to be killed by terrorists
  • You are 20 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident on you way to buying a lotto ticket
  • You are 14 times more likely to correctly guess someone’s PIN number
  • You are 14 times more likely to be consumed by a rare strain of flesh-eating bacteria
  • If you buy 50 tickets a week you could win once every 5000 years
  • You are 6.992 times more likely to die when our Earth collides with an asteroid, ending all life on Earth as we know it

But any non-participants out there don’t need my lecture. They have something better: What if you spent $10.00 on lotto tickets for 35 years? Multiplied out for thirty-five 52-week periods, becomes $18,200.00 If you had instead invested that same money in, say, a mutual fund over the same number of years at $10.00 per week, you would have $100,314.56, which is about $80,000 in profit.

Apart from it being a sure thing, it is a significant gain in wealth over what would have happened if the money was squandered on lotto tickets.