Lotteries have been around for centuries, and are popular the world over. After all, who doesn’t dream of buying a ticket and winning enough money to buy a house, go on vacation, or simply quit your job? The best lotteries around the world come in all shapes and sizes, but what they all have in common are the millions of players who buy into them every day, hoping to win the jackpot and live out their wildest dreams.
Euromillions is one of the biggest lotteries in the world, with only the USA’s Powerball and MegaMillions offering bigger jackpots. The lottery brings together players from nine countries with a whopping €190 million maximum jackpot. Because of its popularity and massive potential winnings, it is also one of the hardest to win: odds of winning the jackpot are an astounding 1 in 139,838,160. This has not stopped millions from taking part twice a week, with some incredible wins.
Last week, an unnamed winner from Spain managed to match all five numbers and two lucky stars, making them the winner of Euromillions’ biggest jackpot ever. A few years before that, a couple from Largs in Scotland made the front pages by winning the UK’s biggest jackpot of £161 million, a record which is yet to be beaten in the country. It is France, however, which holds the record for most Euromillions jackpots won.
A standard ticket costs €2.50, £2.50, or CHF3.50. There is no nationality restriction for participants, with the only rule being that players must be 18 or over (16 in the UK).
Perhaps one of the most famous lotteries in the world is Spain’s Christmas Lottery (Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad), commonly referred to as El Gordo (‘The Fat One’). It is the largest lottery in the world, with the last iteration in 2016 reaching a total €2.3 billion in winnings. With the first draw taking place in 1812, it is also the second longest-running lottery in the world, with first place being the Dutch state-run Staatsloterij.
Held annually in the days leading up to Christmas, the draw itself is filled with tradition. Every year, pupils from San Ildefonso school line up to ‘sing’ the winning numbers for 1,807 prizes. The ceremony is televised and watched by millions as traditional viewing of the Christmas season. After all, almost everyone in the country buys at least a few tickets: estimates point to between 75% and 90% of the country’s population.
Due to its high number of prizes, El Gordo often distributes winnings quite evenly across the country. In addition, the odds are not bad: there is a 10% chance of recouping your costs, and 5.3% of winning more money. Odds of winning the big prize are 0.001%, which is excellent compared to the 0.0000000086% chance of winning the Euromillions jackpot.
Tickets cost approximately 70 cents, although it is believed the average Spaniard spends up to 70 euros a year on the draw!
Whilst Spain’s most famous lottery is El Gordo, perhaps the most popular in Spain is the ‘Cupón’ from ONCE. As opposed to El Gordo, which is an annual lottery organised by the government-based Loterías y Apuestas del Estado, the ONCE draw is daily, and organised by Spain’s leading charity for the blind and visually impaired.
The Cupón is the main source of income for ONCE. As well as a daily draw Monday to Friday, ONCE has a special weekend draw as well as seasonal big-money tickets. The lottery is a common facet of Spanish life, with small kiosks dedicated to selling the tickets dotted everywhere around the country, and the daily draw being broadcast live every night on national television.
One of ONCE’s main goals is to not only raise money, but to give employment opportunities to people with visual disabilities. Over 88% of ONCE’s staff have some form of disability, and the ONCE kiosks are almost universally staffed by blind and visually impaired employees. In recent years, the organisation has focused on also employing people with other disabilities for their kiosks.
Each ticket for the Cupón Diario (daily coupon) is €1.50. Tickets can be bought in ONCE kiosks, ONCE authorised re-sellers, and online. Prizes range from a simple refund of your ticket to multi-million euro jackpots.
The Powerball lottery in the USA holds the record for the biggest individual jackpot of all time – $1586.4 million. This mammoth prize was split between three lucky US residents, and is miles ahead of the second highest jackpot of $656 million, from US competitor MegaMillions. The world’s biggest ever sole winner was also a Powerball player: 86-year old Gloria MacKenzie, who won $371 million in 2013.
The overall odds of winning any prize are 1 in 24.87. Unlike most European lotteries, the prize money is subject to tax in most states. Jackpot winners can choose to get their money in cash, in two installments, or as an annuity with 30 years of annual payments. Many consider the annuity the more attractive option, as it involves less money being withheld by the government and higher earnings in the long run.
Powerball is sold in 44 American states, as well as Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and D.C. The remaining 6 states do not sell lottery tickets at all. Tickets cost $2, with an additional $1 for the Power Play option.
The best lotteries in the world aren’t all about massive jackpots: take Poland’s Mini Lotto. One of the world’s cheapest lotteries, Mini Lotto tickets cost just 25p (approximately 33 cents) and takes place six days a week. It is a smaller version of the regular Polish lottery, which offers considerably higher prizes for slightly more expensive tickets (60p a line).
Compared to the life-changing, enormous multi-million dollar jackpots of lotteries like Euromillions and Powerball, the approximately $80k jackpot of Mini Lotto seems modest. However, odds are also a lot better, at 850,668:1, and the low price for each ticket means you can afford to increase your chances considerably. After all, $80k is not bad at all for a 33 cent investment!