When people mention the lottery, it can often sound like there's only one type of lottery game out there. The reality is you can pick from a wide range of lottery titles that includes everything from scratch cards to small draws such as Lotto HotPicks. You have two options most of the time: 'instant win' or number drawing'. Let’s take a look at the merits of both.
'Number drawing' is what springs to mind most when you think of the lottery. Players typically buy a ticket for a fixed price and pick a set of numbers from a specific range (the UK's National Lottery uses balls numbered up to 59, for instance).
You pick your numbers then wait and see if you’re luck is in. There is no instant result, you are in a huge pooled draw with everyone else who plays. The winning numbers are revealed in a random selection process (a 'draw') that usually takes place at the same time every week. Not all 'number drawing' games have the same payout structure, but it's generally true that players will win something if they've picked three or more numbers that match those revealed on the night of the draw.
Given the huge selection of possible number combinations, there are weeks in which no player wins the jackpot; this usually results in a 'rollover', which means that all or most of the possible win money from a no-win week is added to the prize pot for next week’s draw.
With these, you find out immediately if you’re a winner or not. Instant wins mainly consist of scratch cards or the online equivalent where results are revealed with a simple click. The payouts on results are pre-determined so you know what you are likely to win each time. Prize amounts for 'instant win' games can vary greatly according to provider and format, but usually, don't change with time as there's no jackpot rollover to build the pot.
'Number drawing' games are attractive because they offer gamblers the chance to win extraordinary multi-rollover sums. The pan-European lottery EuroMillions has previously featured jackpots worth over £90m, and the National Lottery alone has created more than 4,000 millionaires or multi-millionaires since 1994. Interest in the big jackpot draws is always huge.
While number draws can theoretically result in players walking away with life-changing sums, the structure of these games means that odds of actually winning can be extremely low. Players have around a 1 in 45 million chance of scooping the jackpot in the National Lottery, though it should be remembered that there's more than just the jackpot up for grabs – gamblers have a better chance, around 1 in 93, of matching three or more balls to win some of the smaller prizes.
'Instant win' games usually come with better odds of winning than their number drawing counterparts. While some people like the thrill of the televised build-up to large number draws, many busy players prefer pre-determined games because these products offer the thrill of a win without the need to wait for results on a specific day.
On the flipside, instant online games and scratch cards generally offer lower-value cash prizes than number draws. Likewise, not all wins are of the same value and high-value payouts are pretty rare.
It is still possible to take home large sums from 'instant win' games despite these lower prize amounts, as Grace Walker from Hamilton discovered when she won £1million from a scratch card in September 2015.
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