The Lottery: What Are Your Chances of Winning and Where Does the Money Go?

    Winning the lottery is often mentioned as the only way we’ll ever get rich, but what are your actual chances of winning the lottery? Turns out that your chances of winning is less than being picked out of half of the United States.

    Lotteries are also touted as savings plans for state governments, but where does the money actually go from the state lotteries? How much actually makes it back to the state? The short answer is: it varies widely by state.

    Let’s take a look at the details in this infographic.

    The Lottery - What Are Your Chances of Winning and Where Does the Money Go


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    In 2016, your odds of winning the big jackpots were:

    • 1 in 292 million for Powerball
    • 1 in 259 million for Mega Millions

    The odds of winning just $4 is 1 in 92.

    This means for every $100 put into the lottery, you can expect to win just 80 cents.

    For the July 30, 2016 Powerball drawing:

    • 74 million tickets were sold across the country
    • Under 4% of those tickets won anything at all
    • 78% of the winning tickets won only $4

    In recent years, states have increased the headline-grabbing mega-jackpots in order to drive more sales. It has worked.

    Overall sales of state-based lotteries totaled:

    • $70.1 Billion in 2014
    • $73.9 Billion in 2015
    • $80.6 Billion in 2016

    That’s over $230 spent for every man, woman, and child in the states with lotteries, or over $300 per adult.

    That’s more than the nation’s total spending for sports tickets, books, video games, movie tickets, and recorded music sales combined.

    49% of Americans report buying a lottery ticket in the past 12 months.

    African-Americans spend 5x as much on lottery tickets per person than whites.

    People with household incomes of less than $10,000/year who play the lottery spend $597/year on lottery tickets.


    • 44 States + the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have Lotteries
    • The states without lotteries are: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah

    In 2014, per capita spending on lottery tickets spanned from $671 per person in Massachusetts to $36 per person in North Dakota.

    The lottery is divided into 3 parts:

    • The Prizes
    • The Administrative Costs
    • The Proceeds to the State

    The percentage of each of these parts varies greatly by state.

    The 5 states with the largest percentage going to Prizes are:

    1. Arkansas (72.8%)
    2. Massachusetts (72.7%)
    3. South Carolina (70.9%)
    4. Maine (70.6%)
    5. Idaho (70.6%)

    The 5 States with the largest percentage going to state revenues are:

    1. West Virgina (78.9%)
    2. South Dakota (74.7%)
    3. Rhode Island (70.5%)
    4. Oregon (67.9%)
    5. Delaware (60.1%)

    Some states rely on the lottery money more than others:

    Rhode Island depends on lottery revenue the most with lottery earnings making up 4.4% of total state revenues in 2013 followed by West Virginia (3.9% of state revenues) and Delaware (3.5% of state revenues).

    Next time you go to buy a lottery ticket, remember that your chances of winning big are less than 2 people in the entire United States population.

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