Players are always asking us about the odds in our lottery games, particularly instant-scratch games. And we understand -- the laws of random statistics can be a difficult concept to absorb, even for those of us who work here.
Lottery players across Iowa win prizes each day, but the thing to remember is that each play is based solely on random chance. There are many winning tickets, but your purchase does not guarantee a winner.
Let’s take the scratch game “Super Crossword” as an example. The overall odds of winning a prize in that $5 game are about 1 in 3.69. So, the question we often get goes something like this: “The overall odds said 1:3.69, but I bought 4 tickets and I didn’t win, so your odds must be wrong.” But in fact, they’re not.
The overall odds of winning on a scratch ticket apply to each ticket purchased in a game, not a series of tickets. So, if a scratch game has overall odds of winning of about 1:4, that doesn't mean that if you buy four tickets that one will automatically be a winner. It means that if you were to buy all of the tickets available in that game, approximately 1 in 4 of them would win a prize.
It’s also important to know that the distribution of tickets within our games is completely random. That’s part of the security process involved in running a lottery; not even our sales representatives who deliver our tickets to stores know where the winning tickets are or which stores will receive them. So, there could be three winning tickets in a row in one of our games, and then several nonwinning tickets after that. Security is of the utmost concern at the Iowa Lottery -- people play our games because they understand the integrity behind our products. We work hard to ensure that everyone has the same fair shot at winning.
The bottom line is, big winners happen all over the state at various retail locations, and higher ticket sales at a particular location do mean more winners there as well. Some busy locations where scratch tickets are sold sell several times as many tickets as others, and therefore cycle through ticket packs more often - creating more winners.
We keep a complete list of winners on our website, as well as a list of all the remaining prizes in our instant-scratch games.
We always encourage our players to remember the entertainment that lottery games have provided them and the help that lottery proceeds have meant to the state of Iowa. Players not only are playing a lottery ticket in the hopes of winning money, they're entertaining themselves and enjoying the experience. Since the Iowa Lottery's start in 1985, our players have won more than $3 billion in prizes while the lottery has raised more than $1.4 billion for state programs.