Recreational Math

Mathematical Games

Do all states have the same lottery odds?

No, not all states have the same lottery odds. Each state not only has its own lottery names and numbers, but also a specific budget to spend and offer as winnings. There are more than 35,000 lottery games in over 40 states, with over 50 billion dollars in sales each year, which does not even include spending in casinos, racing, or charity events. Adding those in would raise the average annual amount spent on gaming to around an amazing $90 billion. All this money changing hands—and the millions of people who like playing the odds—means that state lotteries and gaming will be here for a long time.

As of this writing, Delaware has the second most per-capita lottery spending in the country, at about $633.66, with the winnings per dollar spent at 15.5 cents. In other words, the state’s residents spend a great deal of money with little return; in fact, no one in the state has won a million dollars or more since the summer of 2009.

Yet another state excels when it comes to the lottery: in Massachusetts, the per-capita lottery spending is $806.57; the winnings per dollar spent is 77.3 cents. To date, it is reported that the state has taken in more than $4 billion in lottery revenues, which represents an average expenditure of more than $800 per adult. The winnings per dollar of 77 cents is the best return in the country; and the state’s lottery website boasts that more than a dozen people have won $1 million or more in the month of March 2011 alone.

But no matter how you slice it, playing the lottery (or any gaming activity) in any state is not the best odds. The states are in it to make money, not to give out money. For example, according to one statistic, if the odds of winning a California Super Lotto game were 1 in 18 million (which is feasible), and if one bought 50 lottery tickets a week, the chances of winning comes down to once every 6,923 years, which is why most people should not quit their day jobs and play the lottery anywhere. The odds are not, and never will be, in your favor, no matter how many states advertise people who win it big.


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