Feeling lucky? How Canadian, U.S. lottery odds compare

TORONTO -- Canadians disappointed at losing out on last week's US$1.6 billion Powerball jackpot may want to play closer to home, where a number of lotteries not only have better odds but also better value.

See Full Article

Anyone with a ticket for the record-high prize last week had merely a one in more than 292 million chance to win.

To put that in perspective, someone who purchases 50 tickets weekly would win the jackpot, on average, once every 112,000 years, said Mike Orkin, a former statistics professor and author of "What Are The Odds?"

But odds are only one way to determine whether to play. The size of the jackpot and the cost of the ticket help determine what's known as the expected percentage return of a lottery.

"That's the best way to look at how good a lottery is," said Shannon Ezzat, a mathematics professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.

For the Powerball, like many other U.S.-government run lotteries, people who play over long periods of time can generally expect to make 50 cents on every dollar spent, said Orkin.

"In other words, you'll lose 50 per cent of your investment."

Similar Canadian lotteries can offer a slightly better return, partially because winnings aren't taxed. In the U.S., winnings can be taxed up to 50 per cent.

"That really reduces your expected values," Ezzat said, which are likely lower than 50 per cent for the Powerball after factoring in taxes.

Lotto Max and Lotto 6/49, on the other hand, generally hover between 40 and 60 per cent, Ezzat said.

But the risk of multiple winners, which increases as more tickets are sold, can lower those numbers.

For example, a single Lotto 6/49 ticket stands a one in nearly 14 million chance of winning. But if 28 million tickets are sold, said Ezzat, it's more likely there will be two winners splitting the jackpot, which lowers the expected percentage value of each ticket.

Charity fundraisers, meantime, sell more expensive tickets but boast better odds. Among the dozens of charity lotteries, the Heart & Stroke Foundation's lottery claims that roughly one in two tickets wins a prize.

But these lotteries generally don't provide better expected values than provincial games of chance, Ezzat said, because tickets for these types of lotteries are generally expensive -- $100 or more -- and the prize values vary. The Heart & Stroke Foundation's prizes include $1 million, luxury cars or simply $25, $50 or $100 cash.

Rather than buying one ticket, Ezzat said some bulk ticket packages -- like the Sick Kids lottery's 20 tickets for $900 -- can turn into a good deal if purchased with 19 other people. The expected percentage return per ticket, in that case, is 87, he said.

There are also fundraising lotteries, including Chase the Ace. The odds for Chase the Ace, a popular lottery made famous by a recent $1.7-million jackpot in Inverness, N.S., seem to increase the longer the game lasts.

It has two parts: a lottery, which then gives the winner the chance to draw the ace of spades from a deck of cards for a bigger chunk of the jackpot. The expected percentage return increases as fewer cards remain, Ezzat said.

"In some sense, the people who play early are subsidizing the people who get in later," he said.

The only time Ezzat has ever calculated a positive expected percentage return in any lottery was for Inverness's final draw last year, when organizers pledged to continue selecting tickets until someone pulled the ace from a remaining five cards to end the game.

For anyone with a ticket that day, the expected percentage return totalled 121 per cent, he said. This means, if someone played the game billions of times, they would earn on average $1.21 for every dollar spent.

"Most times, you won't win," he said. "But the couple times you do? You'll win really big."

So-called 50/50 draws, meantime -- where the winner pockets half the ticket sales -- are a popular fixture at Canadian sporting events.

But unless the organizers offer discounted bulk tickets, the expected percentage return is always 50 per cent, said Ezzat.

"There's no benefit in getting in early," he said. "It doesn't matter."

But while the odds fluctuate based on the game, Orkin said, there's really few good reasons to play any lottery.

There's the profoundly slim chance of changing one's life with a massive payoff from a small investment, he said, but -- so long as there's no gambling problem -- "it's worth it to go out and buy a couple of lottery tickets, especially when the jackpot gets high, if you find it entertaining."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • July 14 bail hearing date set for Epstein's ex-girlfriend

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Jeffrey Epstein's ex-girlfriend will appear remotely by video for a July 14 courthouse arraignment and bail hearing on charges she recruited girls for him to sexually abuse over two decades ago, a judge said Tuesday. Source
  • Video shows Michigan facility staff restraining Black teen who died

    World News CTV News
    At least seven men forcibly restrained a teenager who had a heart attack and died two days later. The staffers at a youth facility in Michigan held down the boy's arms and legs and sat on him as he screamed that he couldn't breathe, an attorney representing the boy's estate said Tuesday. Source
  • Opposition MPs win votes for documents, special committee meetings to probe WE Charity deal

    Canada News CBC News
    Opposition parties aren't letting up in their battle to shine light on every aspect of the federal government's dealings with WE Charity — compelling a Commons committee to produce a trove of documents and hold special meetings on the issue later this month. Source
  • Essential workers during COVID-19 susceptible to 'moral injury' and PTSD, hospital says

    Canada News CBC News
    Health-care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are at risk of severe stress that could cause long-term psychological damage, the Centre of Excellence on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder says. The centre at the Royal Ottawa Hospital has teamed up with the Phoenix Australia Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health to develop a guide for facilities including hospitals and peer-support organizations in an effort to reduce the impact on those susceptible to so-called moral injury, a…
  • CFIA cancels imports of some puppies from Ukraine after dead dogs found on plane

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it will not allow commercial puppies under the age of eight months to be imported from Ukraine after dozens of dead or sick dogs were found on a flight at Toronto's airport. Source
  • Netherlands police arrest 6 after makeshift 'torture chamber' uncovered

    World News CBC News
    Dutch police arrested six men after discovering sea containers that had been converted into a makeshift prison and sound-proofed "torture chamber" complete with a dentist's chair, tools including pliers and scalpels and handcuffs, a high ranking officer announced Tuesday. Source
  • Family members haunted by lack of care for seniors during outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Seniors' cries for help going unanswered. Residents left in clothing soaked in their own urine. These are some of the troubling things a group of women say they witnessed inside Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver when a COVID-19 outbreak began. Source
  • Ontario mask bylaws could be difficult for businesses to enforce, legal experts say

    Canada News CBC News
    As Ontario municipalities enact new measures regarding the use of masks in commercial locations, business owners are on their own when it comes to dealing with customers who refuse to comply. On Tuesday, Toronto and Ottawa joined Kingston in establishing rules requiring a non-medical face covering inside businesses open to the public. Source
  • Alberta confirms 47 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Alberta confirmed 47 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday as well as two more deaths due to the coronavirus. The two deaths were both men in their 70s and were linked to the ongoing outbreak at the Misericordia Hospital. Source
  • Australian driver fights off deadly snake that snuck into his vehicle, wrapped around his leg

    World News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Police in Australia pulled over a man for allegedly speeding along a highway, only to find out he had been rushing to hospital, believing he was bitten by a poisonous snake that made its way into his vehicle. Source