By strange coincidence, some statistician launched into one about the National Lottery just the day after I did. Dr John Haigh, emeritus reader in mathematics at Sussex University, summed it up pretty neatly. When the number of balls in the lottery was increased from 49 to 59, he says the chances of winning went from ‘dreadful’ to ‘even more dreadful.’
To give a bit more detail, he does some sums. Originally the chances of your six numbers coming up were, as I said, about 14,000,000 to 1; 13,983,816 to 1 to be exact. Now the chances are 45,057,474 to 1. That’s not very good is it? You’ve more chance of being made a saint, which carries odds of about 20,000,000 to 1. You might also want to worry about going out in a thunderstorm; your chances of being struck by lightning are a paltry 3,000,000 to 1. Almost a dead cert compared with the lottery.
Not surprisingly, this leads the good doctor to confirm what we all thought. Nobody has won the jackpot since 14 November, and there have been 13 rollovers, so the pot now stands at just over £50,000,000. At two quid a ticket, that means that 25,000,000 suckers have lost their cash. And the reason nobody has won is that the odds are stacked heavily against you.
It’s not as bad as in other countries though. In Australia you need to beat odds of 45,379,620 to 1, which is marginally worse. MegaMillions in the US, don’t hold your breath, since at 258,980,850 to 1 you’re not likely to buy the farm just yet. Even that pales into insignificance when you look at Powerball, also in the US, where to get the big one you need to overcome odds of 292,210,338 to 1.
I’ll be keeping my cash in my pocket on Wednesday, because the feebleminded among the populace will be going apeshit buying extra tickets because of the size of the pot up for grabs. Camelot, the organisers, will invoke a new rule whereby if the pot is over £50M, they’ll fudge it till somebody wins. Or more likely lots of people win, and at that point your share will diminish markedly.
Truly a tax on stupidity.