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What to Consider When Choosing a Lottery

When it comes to choosing how to play the lottery, punters have a wealth of choice – from regional and national lotteries to overseas lottos and instant win scratch cards, there are numerous ways to play. It's important each punter understand these key things players should consider before picking a lottery product.

Instant Win or Number Draw

One of the most basic things to consider is whether you want to play an 'instant win' game or a 'wait for number draw' game. The benefit of scratch card games is, of course, that players can find out instantly whether they've scooped a prize, as opposed to waiting for a weekly or bi-weekly draw. The odds of winning on a scratch card are potentially also higher than winning a significant prize on a conventional lottery. On the other hand, by playing a large-scale lottery, the jackpot prizes that entrants stand to win can be considerably larger.

Players who lack the patience to wait for draws might therefore prefer instant win games – although there's no reason to necessarily choose between the two. Leading lottery operators have provided scratch card 'side games' for years, often taking advantage of licensing deals with recognisable names like Monopoly – and users can play these directly online when entering their weekly lottery draws.

Jackpot Size

As mentioned above, jackpot size is an important factor to consider. Jackpots can vary significantly between lotteries, spanning from thousands to millions. For instance, the UK’s National Lottery hosts draws worth millions, whereas the top Health Lottery jackpot goes up to £100,000. Each major operator typically has a showcase lottery that captures most of the attention, but will then host smaller lottery offerings. In the UK, residents can enter the smaller Thunder Ball and Lotto Hotpicks draws in addition to the core Lotto draw.

At the larger end of the scale, transnational lotteries offer the greatest potential for enormous lottery jackpots. European residents in selected countries can enter EuroJackpot to play for €10-90 million, and EuroMillions to play for €15-190 million. The values of those draws can vary drastically depending on rollovers, but often climb to extremely high amounts compared to national jackpots. Over in the US, the multi-state Powerball and Mega Millions draws are both widely available, and comparable to EuroMillions in that jackpots have been known to surpass the $100 million mark.

The emergence of online concierge services has dramatically increased the size of the market as players can now enter overseas lotteries that were not previously available to them. This is possible because online lottery concierges such as TheLotter maintain offices in their various operating countries so their staff can purchase lottery tickets in person, on behalf online players. So, when choosing a lottery product, you might consider buying tickets through a concierge to gain access to foreign lotteries with larger (and more tempting) jackpots.

Odds of Winning and Prize Tiers

Despite the importance of jackpot size, it's worth remembering that, in most cases, the odds of hitting the jackpot in a major lottery are very slim indeed. It's therefore worth considering some strategy, taking smaller lotteries into consideration, as well as thinking about prize tiers.

Most lotteries have a degree of similarity in that players select a core line of numbers and sometimes one or two bonus balls, which can combine with the core numbers to help players win a higher tier prize. However, not all lotteries are created equal in terms of mechanics and odds. For example:

  • In Spain's La Primitiva, players select 6 numbers out of 49 and are assigned a random 'Reintegro' number. Odds of winning the top prize (6 + Reintegro) are 1 in 139,838,160.
  • In Italy's SuperEnalotto, players select 6 numbers out of 90 (and an extra SuperStar number), making the odds of hitting the jackpot an unlikely 1 in 622,614,630.
  • In the UK's Lotto, players select 6 numbers out of 59, with a bonus ball in the mix. Odds of winning the top prize (match 6 numbers) are 1 in 13,983,816.

Just looking at the small sample above, it's clear that the UK Lotto has more favourable jackpot odds than its European equivalents, although its top prize is also likely to be much smaller. Taking a step down even further, the UK’s Health Lottery openly states that its players are 21 times more likely to win in one of its draws than with the National Lottery’s main Lotto draw.

Players should also consider prize tiers when choosing a lottery product. Although hitting the jackpot usually has very slim odds, players could stand to win a range of smaller prizes for matching three, four or five numbers in combination with bonus balls – so opting for a product with more sub-jackpot prize tiers (for example, the US Mega Millions draw has eight sub-jackpot prize tiers, compared to five sub-jackpot tiers in the UK Lotto) could be more lucrative.

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