July 15, 2020 | By: Paulette Thompson

Lottery Odds: Are Tickets Worth Your Money?

Gambling Debt

When you think of someone with a gambling problem, you probably envision someone blowing their entire paycheque on a blackjack table, or worse, their life’s savings. But playing the Canada lottery is also a form of gambling.

Now, there isn’t anything wrong with buying a couple of scratch-offs as a fun diversion every now and then, or even splurging on a Lotto Max ticket when the jackpot gets juicy. But when you look at just how much Canadians are giving to gaming agencies each year, and the actual lottery odds, you may want to reconsider buying them every day, especially if you’re struggling financially.

What are the odds of winning Lotto Max, or any other of Canada’ lotteries? Is the slim chance of winning lotteries worth the price of a ticket? Let’s take a look at how much people spend on the lotto, the chances of winning the lottery, and what happens when someone does win the lottery.

How Much Canadians Spend on Lottery

Here are some lottery statistics from Statista which reveal how much Canadians spent, by province, in 2020 alone. Remember, these numbers are in billions of dollars:

Province Money Spent (in billions)
Ontario $4.10
Quebec $1.78
British Columbia $1.28
Alberta $0.91
Newfoundlan & Labrado $0.38
Nova Scotia $0.37
New Brunswick $0.33
Manitoba $0.24
Saskatchewan $0.21
Prince Edward Island $0.07
NW Territories $0.01

That’s a staggering $9.68 BILLION across the Great White North! And this doesn’t even factor in the Canadians on the US border who regularly purchase Powerball lottery tickets from our southern neighbours.

The Odds of Winning the Lottery in Canada

While the odds of winning the lottery are readily available, very few bother to check them out. According to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG), your chance of winning the lottery are very slim!

  • Odds of winning the Lotto Max jackpot (per $5 play) are approximately 1 in 33.3 million
  • Odds of winning 2.5% of the Lotto Max Pools Fund (per $5 play) are about 1 in 4.7 million
  • Odds of winning Lotto 6/49 (per $3 play) are about 1 in 13.9 million

Now, let’s add some more perspective to these numbers!

  • Odds of being attacked by a hippo: 1 in 2.5 million
  • Odds of being hit by a meteor impact: 1 in 1.6 million
  • Odds of being struck by lightning: 1 in 1 million

So, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning, a meteor, or a hippopotamus than you do of winning big in the lottery.

If the Chances of Winning the Lottery Are so Small, How Does Anyone Win?

Because the odds of winning the lottery are extremely small for any one person – especially the chances of winning the Lotto Max jackpot (at 1 in 33.3 million) – it might seem like nobody should ever win. However, while any one person’s chances of winning are extremely small, it’s important to remember that millions of Canadians play the lottery each week and many buy multiple tickets with different numbers.

With a population of roughly 38.06 million people, if every Canadian citizen bought a single lottery ticket, then you would expect at least one lottery winner (assuming everyone had a different ticket number).

In short, while you might not win on any single lottery ticket, the chances of someone winning the lottery (given enough time) are nearly inevitable. What the gaming agencies sell is the hope of you being that lucky winner.

Has Anyone Ever Won Cash for Life in Canada?

One of the lottery games available in Canada is the “Cash for Life” ticket, which promises a chance at winning a set weekly amount for the life of the winner. Has anyone ever won cash for life in Canada? Yes.

For example, Amanda McInnis and Jennifer Kemp, a mother-and-daughter pair, won the Cash for Life prize in 2020. However, they opted to take the lump sum payment of $675,000 instead of payments over time.

Is Playing the Lotto in Canada Worth It?

So, is playing the lotto worth it? Would buying enough tickets to guarantee a win pay off? Because the chances of winning the lottery are so small, odds are that it isn’t worth playing the lotto with the serious aim of winning.

Why?

For one person to buy enough tickets with different numbers to guarantee a win in the Lotto Max, they’d have to spend $166.5 million dollars ($5 a ticket times 33.3 million tickets). Meanwhile, the odds of winning the Lotto 6/49 would force them to spend $41 million.

At one point, the largest lotto 6/49 jackpot was $64 million, which is not a typical jackpot. Meanwhile, the June 8, 2021 Lotto Max jackpot was $70 million, with a total of $117 million in prizes on the draw. Also, when jackpots reach these heights, more people play and buy more tickets, increasing the chances of having to split the jackpot.

In short, even if you bought enough tickets to “guarantee” a win, you’d still lose money.

So, while the lottery can be a fun way to blow some loose change and possibly get a small windfall, it’s no replacement for investing in a proper retirement fund. For example, if you opened a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) account using a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) with annual interest of 5%, and put $1,000 into it, in 20 years, you’d have about $2,653.30 if you didn’t add a single dollar to it yourself after the fact—more than doubling your money.

If you spent that same money on the lotto, odds are that you would lose most of it. However, there’s a fun factor involved in playing the lottery that investing in an RRSP just can’t match. There’s no real harm in playing the lottery in Canada if you play responsibly and don’t buy hundreds of dollars of tickets each month. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get money for retirement, it’s much more practical to open up a retirement fund!

Money Management Following a Lotto Win

Many lotto players dream of quitting their jobs and buying a sprawling mansion, a flashy new car, and designer duds, then spending the remainder of their days partying and traipsing around the globe on exotic vacations.

Many might think that winning the lottery would solve their money problems forever. However, that’s often not the reality. Many lotto winners lack proper budgeting and money management skills. Additionally, gaining so much cash so fast can be overwhelming. So, many lottery winners wind up losing it all.

For example, Hamilton, Ontario resident Sharon Tirabassi is one of the Canadian lottery winners who lost it all. After a $10.5 million payout from the Lotto Super 7, she spent her fortune on that house, car, clothes, parties, and trips (not to mention sharing the wealth with family and friends). Now, nine years after cashing in, Tirabassi is once again living paycheque to paycheque and taking the bus to work. “You don’t think it’ll go (at the time), right?” Tirabassi says.

While most wouldn’t call this a happy ending, Tirabassi does say she’s better off today, and that she’s found purpose working part-time as a personal support worker while raising her kids, instead of partying and shopping.

But some lotto stories have a much bleaker ending. Surely you’ve heard of the “lotto curse.” These are stories where tragedy befalls winners shortly after their windfall. We’re keeping this post upbeat, but if you’re interested in reading about them, check out this story from The National Post.

What to Do if You Win the Lottery in Canada

If you are one of those one-in-a-33.3-million chance lucky winners getting a major windfall, our best advice is to get a financial planner as soon as possible, as you’ll have a lot to consider. Most importantly, the financial advisor will be able to tell you how to best invest lottery winnings in Canada. A few things you’ll definitely want to discuss with your advisor:

It’s also wise to continue living frugally even after a win. In fact, some of the wealthiest people in the world follow a frugal lifestyle (it’s part of the reason they’re still wealthy!). One of the best ways to do this is by tracking your expenses and following a budget. We’ve created a free Budget Planner + Expense Tracker that you can download now to help you out.

Some Big Lottery Don’ts to Avoid

What are some of the things you shouldn’t do after winning the lottery? If you overcome the low chances of winning the lottery and get that massive windfall, it might be tempting to go on a spending spree – after all, you have all this money now!

While some big expenses might be fun, there are a few things to avoid, including:

  • Spending all of your first lotto paycheque without setting aside money for taxes on those winnings. This could cause some issues at tax time.
  • Buying a house/mansion much bigger than your needs – big homes mean big expenses, and celebrities with multi-million dollar homes usually have a consistent income to support those costs.
  • Throwing repeated block parties. Having friends over is a given after a big windfall. However, bringing a lot of strangers into your home with drinks can be a risk. A slip and fall where you have to pay for someone’s back surgery afterwards could eat up a lot of your winnings.

It’s okay to splurge a bit after winning the lotto – just don’t go too crazy, or you might find yourself running out of money before you know it!

Final Thoughts on Playing the Lottery

Gaming agencies are spending more than $450 million every year to get Canadians to buy more lottery tickets through feel-good ads that sell the dream of winning the lottery. Why? Because they know it’s a losing proposition for most players, and they’re the ones really “winning lotteries” as they get money by selling tickets or drawing people in who might play other games!

At Credit Canada, we understand that many folks are playing the lotto because they feel a win is their only way out of debt. We’re here to tell you, that’s simply not true! Give us a call today at 1.800.267.2272 – it’s free and confidential – or contact us online. We can discuss your financial situation to come up with a plan that works for you - and that doesn’t involve scratch-offs!

 

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