Lottery Strategy: Odds of Winning the Same in Large Cities, Small Towns
Win or lose, where you buy a lottery ticket doesn’t make a difference.
Winning $337 Million Powerball Ticket Sold in Michigan
Aug. 20, 2012 — If you’ve ever thought that where you bought a lottery ticket would make a difference in whether you’d win or lose, it’s time to rethink your lottery strategy. No matter where you play the lottery, the odds of winning are the same.
It’s all random. It’s all luck, experts said.
In 2012, three out of 11 Mega million jackpot winners hailed from the top 10 U.S. metro areas. But mixed in with winners from Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta were winners from areas with much smaller populations, such as Red Bud, Ill., Milford Mill, Md., Pomona, Calif., Ottawa, Kan.
“It’s probably that much of the country does live in small towns and small cities, and maybe they are just more predisposed to buy more lottery tickets than people who live in big cities,” Michael Shackleford, who operates the gaming site Wizard of Odds, told ABC News.
“I really don’t think there’s a conspiracy here. I think everyone has the same chances,” Schackleford said.
Lottery tickets can be bought at more than 240,000 locations in North America. According to fiscal sales of lottery tickets for 2005, the last year for which data were available, “New York led the U.S. with sales of $6.2 billion, followed by Massachusetts with sales of $4.5 billion,” according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, which represents 52 lottery organizations.
In the past five years, the Mega Millions jackpot has twice been won by people buying tickets in Brooklyn, N.Y., which counts 2.5 million residents. But Kalamazoo, in southwest Michigan, whose population is about 74,000 people, tied with Brooklyn when it came to winning those pots of money.
And earlier this month, a winning Powerball ticket was sold in Lapeer, Mich.. The Powerball $337 million is still unclaimed.
Another Powerball winner for 2012 came from Seymour, Conn., which has a population of about 16,000 people. And, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is not only the hometown of Ashton Kutcher and Elijah Wood but of the Shipping 20, the group of 20 co-workers who hit the $240 million jackpot in June.
While it’s become common to see little-known cities, such as Sharpsburg, Ga., and Piqua, Ohio, make the news after a big jackpot, winning all comes down to chance.
“Every ticket has an equal chance of winning. The drawing is completely random. There’s no way to bias a random drawing toward particular locations. If there were it wouldn’t be random, which would mean that the lottery is cheating,” Mark Chu-Carroll, a math blogger, wrote in an email to ABC News.
“True randomness frequently produces what looks like patterns,” Chu-Caroll continued. “If you flip a fair coin 10,000 times, at some point in the sequence of flips, you’ll probably see 10 heads in a row. Taken by itself, that seems very unlikely, but as a part of the larger, random sequence, if you didn’t see something like that, it’s a sign that there’s something fishy going on.”
When Richard Lustig, a multi-time lottery winner, offered ways to increase one’s chances of winning the game, critics countered,
“The lottery works randomly. Unlike poker or blackjack, there’s nothing you can do to gain an advantage at this. You can’t make decisions to influence the outcome,” Zac Bissonnette, author of “Debt-Free U,” told Business Insider..
So there’s no great significance to the fact that the Powerball jackpot was won by residents of Harding, Pa., Lithonia, Ga., Lakeville, Minn., Fall River, Mass., Catskill, N.Y., and Abingdon, Md., in 2011.
“If you look at the number of ticket buyers in a city compared to a small town, there are a couple of confounding patterns,” said Chu-Caroll. “Every small town has a couple of stores selling lottery tickets. If you actually look at the number of vendors in the big cities, compared with the number of vendors outside of the big cities, there are actually more lottery vendors outside of the cities. And if you look at ticket-buying patterns, the group of ticket buyers is a much smaller proportion of the population outside of the cities.”
But, there is no rhyme or reason for why winners come from a particularly area, experts said.
“It is not known until after the drawing where the ticket was sold. There is just as much of a chance of it being sold in a small town as a large town, the city as the suburbs, the North as the South, the East as the West,” Andrea Brancato, a Michigan lottery PR director, told ABC News in an email.
“If you look at the list of Mega Millions winners, for example, you will see that there are large cities (Los Angeles, Richmond, Va., Dallas) all the way to small towns (Lapeer, Mich., and many of the other places that I’ve not heard of!).”
Here’s a look at the locations of Mega Million Winners for 2010:
$25 million won in Broadview Heights, Ohio
$141 million won in Gladstone, Mich.
$54 million won in Brooklyn, N.Y.
$135 million won Morro Bay, Calif.
$64 million won in Agoura Hills, Calif., and El Monte, Calif.
$26 million won in Syracuse, N.Y. and Canastota, N.Y.
$36 million won in Kalamazoo, Mich.
$12 million jackpot won in Greensboro, N.C.
$64 million jackpot won in Brooklyn, N.Y.
$266 million jackpot won in Pico Rivera, Calif.
$20 million jackpot won in Hennepin, Ill.
$134 million won in Long Beach, Calif.
$144 million won in Katy, Texas
Here’s a look at some of the locations of Powerball Winners for 2010:
$48.8 million won in Saratoga, N.Y.
$18.7 million won in Louisville, Ky.
$79 million won in Martinsburg, W. Va.
$258.5 won in Marshall, Mo.
$141.4 million won in Asheville, N.C.
$61.5 million won in Bradenton, Fla.
$116 million won in Mabelton, Ga.
$85.7 million won in Baton Rouge, La.
$73.8 million won in Royal Palm Beach, Fla.
$96.9 million won in Helena, Mont. and Kalamazoo, Mich.Lottery Strategy: Whether you live in a big city or small town, the odds of winning are the same.
The key part is “seem“
My guess is that you are using the “availability heuristic” and “representativeness heuristic” leading to a cognitive bias in your assessment of the geographic distribution of winners.
You remember the small town lottery winners because they are notable, memorable, publishable and believable. You forget about the boring winners because they rate just a photo, a caption and maybe at most a one line “What will you do now?” interview question.
posted by srboisvert at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2009 [7 favorites]
Do note that many “chain stores” are in fact franchises, with the actual store being owned by a mom and pop.
Nevertheless, I think it’s simply that convenience stores — mostly local small businesses, whether they carry a national brand or not — are the dominant seller of lottery tickets.
Also, mom and pop businesses may in fact rely more heavily on lottery sales.
posted by dhartung at 11:52 AM on June 15, 2009
Google for “lottery poverty” and you’ll find plenty of hits suggesting that poorer people tend to buy more lottery tickets.
And it’s obvious that wealth is concentrated in cities — rural areas all over the world have suffered repeating cycles of depopulation ever since the Industrial Revolution.
posted by randomstriker at 11:49 PM on June 17, 2009