Before my new life as a personal finance blogger, I used to work for a large lottery operator. Cue mutterings and shakings of heads. Please bear with me. While the two roles appear to be polar opposites, the former kick-started the latter. There’s nothing like watching a single mother buy $50 worth of scratchcards in the middle of winter while her emaciated child walks around with no shoes on to make you want to help people make better financial decisions. While there are heaps of lottery players who do play responsibly, there are other players who see that lottery play slip and immediately suspend all reason and logic, parting with huge sums on the craziest fanciful notions. During my time at the lottery operator, I came across lottery myths that ranged from the whimsical to the just plain weird. Here are a few of my favourites…
1. There are ‘lucky’ numbers
Nebulous statistics drive some lottery players into a frantic frenzy. ‘The number 24 has come up for the past two weeks! It MUST be lucky!’
Ok. In the UK the lottery draw machinery and process are highly monitored, regulated and supervised by certified auditors. The machinery is tested to the fault and every ball is weighed ahead of every draw show by a university physics department. The balls have a limited shelf-life and are discarded after a handful of shows so the balls’ bounce isn’t impaired by overuse. Machinery malfunctions are frankly not possible and there is no chance that one ball will be selected over another due to its physical properties.
As independent statisticians have proven, lottery draws are statistically random. Yes certain numbers will crop up more than others but that is wholly attributable to the random process, which is entirely without design or predictability.
2. It will happen to me
One I have heard time and time again. ‘It’s only a matter of time’, ‘I know I WILL win one day’. Well statistically speaking no you won’t. The chance of winning the standard National Lottery game in the UK is 1 in 14 million. Let’s put this in another way. If you bought a ticket every week, you’d expect to win the UK lottery once in 250,000 years. Now compare this to multiple state lotteries in the USA and those hopelessly slim odds almost look favourable. In some multiple state lotteries the chance of winning the lottery is 1 in 120 million. According to one estimate based on data from the US National Safety Council, you’re 45 times more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to win a US multiple state lottery. And around 100 times more likely to date a supermodel.
3. There are ‘lucky’ stores
When I was working at the lottery there were 28,700 stores in the UK that sold lottery tickets. Now the UK is not a big place. Even in the depths of the most rural uninhabited no-man’s-land you’d struggle to be more than a mile from your nearest lottery terminal. And even if your nearest store is going to be tricky to get to, you can always buy your tickets online from the comfort of your own home.
And yet I knew a man who travelled to a store twenty five miles away three times a week to buy tickets from his ‘lucky’ store, despite the fact that the place of ticket purchase has absolutely no bearing on a statistically random draw. So here we had a guy who surplus to his weekly lottery ticket bill was also shelling out on gas for 150 redundant miles per week.
4. Buying your ticket seconds before the cut-off point will get your numbers to the ‘top of the pile’
Truly the most bizarre myth I encountered during my time at the lottery. I knew a couple who would spend every draw day evening sat in a supermarket car park. At 7.28pm on the dot, they’d dash into the store and purchase their lottery tickets speedily ahead of the 7.30pm deadline. Baffled by this bizarre ritual, I asked them why they did this. They felt that buying their tickets so close to the cut-off point would mean that their numbers were at the ‘top of the pile’ and were much more likely to be picked. At this point I felt that a rational explanation of statistical randomness would fall on spectacularly deaf ears.
Have you encountered any lottery myths? I’d love to hear from you!
Crystal’s Comments: As I have mentioned before, I do play the lotto once in a while and use a few bucks of my fun money to do it. Yep, I know the odds suck and I don’t have any weird luck beliefs, but sometimes I just have a bad day and decide to “buy a buck of hope”, lol. I also enjoy the tiny thrill of taking a gamble and daydreaming for a few days about being a multi-millionaire overnight. In the meantime Im a bigger believer of creating your own lasting wealth and I talk about how to make money online here.
The myths above made me laugh pretty hard since I have heard similar ones – but #4 takes the cake since you can watch the balls be drawn here in Texas like you do at a bingo hall…”top of the pile”…hahaha. Thanks for a great guest post Mrs. Moneypenniless!