Hope of winning a bad reason to play lottery

People have a hard time grasping probability

Years ago, I made a conscious decision I would never buy a lottery ticket.

It might have been when I was studying probability at university, although, I had never bought one before then either.

And I never have since.

It basically comes down to one thing. I am not a gambler and the odds of winning are so astronomically low as to be effectively zero.

LAST WEEK: Welcome to the misleadingly named new B.C. dino species

Take the recent $20 million win by a couple from Telkwa in the Lotto Max.

The lottery claims you have a one in 33 million chance of winning with a $5 ticket. That’s based on 85 million possible combinations of the seven numbers needed to win the jackpot and the fact you get three such combinations per ticket, one you pick yourself and two that are randomly generated.

Most people get that it’s a long shot at best, but what has intrigued me over the years has been how people simply do not understand probability.

Humans have a really hard time fathoming huge numbers so we unconsciously extrapolate to things we can understand.

For example, we intuitively feel like the more often we play, the better our chances of winning.

Technically, this is probably true.

MORE BARKING AT THE BIG DOG:

Anger and scapegoating isn’t going to solve anything

Trying to defeat your opponents is not a scandal, it’s politics

On any given flip of a coin, for example, your chances of it landing on heads is one in two, or 50 per cent. Because any subsequent flip is completely independent of the previous one, the probability of heads coming up is still 50 per cent.

However, if we flip the coin twice, the odds of getting heads increases. In this scenario there are four possible outcomes: two heads; two tails; one head, one tail; or one tail, one head. When you do the math, the probably of getting at least one head in two tosses becomes 75 per cent. Three flips yields a probability of 87.5 per cent.

Same applies to flipping three coins at the same time.

So intuitively, playing the same numbers every week or playing more than one set of numbers for a particular draw increases your odds of winning.

When you start with a probability of one in 33 million, however, whether you play the same numbers every week for 30 years, or buy 100 tickets for a particular draw, the chance of winning is still effectively zero.

Some local people were discouraged by the recent win in Telkwa.

They shouldn’t be, because the probability it will happen again here is exactly the same as the probability it will happen in Vancouver or Smith’s Falls, Ontario.

That is because the odds are always astronomically against everyone. In the end the house always wins.

Personally, I can think of only one good reason to play. To actively support the programs all the revenue it generates supports.

Over time, the vast majority of people lose money playing the lottery, so it is, in essence, a voluntary tax.

Only 48 per cent of lottery revenue goes into the prize pool. In 2017/2018, the B.C. Lottery Corporation made $1.4 billion from its 52 per cent share. Of that, $9.8 went to the federal government, $964 million was transferred to the Province; $147 million was deposited into a special health care account, $140 million was granted to charitable and community organizations, and $102 million was distributed to local governments that host gaming facilities.

The rest went into enforcement, support for horse racing, local economic development and responsible gambling initiatives.

People play the lottery for all kinds of reasons.

The hope of winning life-changing money is not a good one, but to those who play, thanks for supporting important government services and social programs.



editor@interior-news.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

BC Green Party leader visits Wet’suwet’en camps at heart of pipeline conflict

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada and First Nations

Calls for dialogue as Coastal GasLink pipeline polarizes some in northern B.C.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670-kilometre pipeline from British Columbia’s northeast to Kitimat on the coast

Smithers only taxi company closing down

BV Taxi parking its cars at the end of January

Coastal GasLink repeats desire for meeting with hereditary chiefs

Coastal GasLink says they’re ready to meet with the hereditary chiefs at their convenience

VIDEO: Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

A state of emergency is set to extend into a fifth day

Warm ‘blob’ could be behind mass starvation of North Pacific seabirds: study

Unprecedented death toll raises red flag for North American marine ecosystems

ICBC to bring in ranking system for collision, glass repair shops

Change comes after the much-maligned auto insurer has faced criticism for sky-high premiums

‘It was just so fast’: B.C. teen recalls 150-metre fall down Oregon mountain

Surrey’s Gurbaz Singh broke his leg on Mount Hood on Dec. 30

B.C. woman crowned the fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history

Malindi Elmore ran an incredible 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon

Alberta bulldog breeder ordered to refund B.C. buyer over puppy’s behaviour

Tribunal ruled a verbal agreement to send a new dog superseded the written contract

Man dies in backcountry near Nelson’s Whitewater Ski Resort

The victim was found unresponsive in a tree well Friday

Cariboo Memorial Hospital on the mend after cold weather wreaks havoc

Burst pipes and water leaks cause three different incidents

Most Read