Thursday, June 24, 2010

Winning the Lottery

"Buying a lottery ticket?  Waste of money!  You have a better chance of being struck by lightning!"

How many people have heard that from some helpful person as you slip your 6/49 ticket into your pocket?  I've always smiled and nodded, as if to say "yes, I know it's a waste of money, but it's my disposable income and who knows?"

We listened to a piece on CBC Radio about the wave of lottery fever sweeping the country.  Everybody's buying tickets for the Lotto Max since it hit the largest jackpot in Canadian history.  We're no exception: we're in two different pools.  But it got me wondering...  You hear that statistic all the time, but how accurate is it?

I decided to do a little research with my good friend Google.

First, the chances of winning the Lotto Max.  According to the website, you have a 1:28,633,528 chance of winning the grand prize.

So, Google, what say you about this statistic?  And what are the chances anyway?

I found it difficult to find a really solid answer, but everyone seems to agree that the number is somewhere between 1:500,000-600,000 that you will be struck by lightning.  No idea how that number is generated, but it seems suspect to me.  If that's the case, somewhere between 11,000-13,500 people were hit by lightning in 2009.  That's a lot of people.  Sure, spread out across the planet it might be thin, but you'd know somebody, right?

Since I'm talking about the Canadian lottery, that would be somewhere between 56-71 Canadians being struck by lightning last year.

A search for "struck by lightning 2009" offered up 553,000 results.  That seems excessive to me.  At that rate, we'd all be living underground.  There appear to be a lot of music related hits, but removing "music" only brought it down to 312,000 hits - what I'd consider to be an apocalyptic number.

I needed to narrow this down further, and what better way than to check the source of all information Canadian - the CBC.  It makes sense: it was their story that got me thinking about it in the first place.  Check this out:
There are around two million lightning flashes in Canada every year, according to Environment Canada. Between six and 10 people die annually, while around 70 are injured after being hit by lightning.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/08/13/f-positive-lightning-explainer.html#ixzz0roVcY8Zn
Holy Moly!  It's even worse than I calculated!  Environment Canada puts the number at between 76-80 people being struck by lightning.  That means it's happening even more than I estimated.

Now back to the lottery.

Being a Maritimer, I check out ALC.ca for all my lottery needs.  This time, my lottery needs include how many people have won the lottery this year (and winning the lottery).  I quickly discover that the Atlantic Lottery Corporation has no option for finding that information easily.  I imagine that if I sent them an email, I could probably get an answer.  But I don't have time for that.  And also I didn't think about it until after I had found a better answer for my question.

I don't know how many people won all the lotteries in 2009, but I do know how many lucky people got all 7 numbers in the Lotto Max on June 11 and 18th.  Guess.  Go on, guess.

Seventy-six.

Yes, 76 winning tickets were sold across the country in the two previous draws. In two weeks, the same number of people that were hit by lighting last year won the lottery in two weeks.  And those people didn't even win the big prize of $50 million!  And this number assumes that each of those tickets was only purchased by one person and not by a group.  The number of winners is likely much higher.

Before you go all high and mighty on me, yes I know that there is a flaw in my argument.  Nobody is trying to get hit by lightning (with a few exceptions).  But that goes both ways.

In conclusion, the next time some doofus says it to me when I buy a ticket, I'm going to tell them:
"Maybe.  But why don't you run around a field in a thunderstorm and we'll see who has more fun winning?"

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