A big lottery win is the dream of millions of people who live day-to-day with the low-level background anxiety that so many of us experience over money – how to pay credit card bills, have the car fixed, buy the kids new shoes… the list is literally endless, and a fat jackpot could wipe that list clean forever.
It’s easy to dream, and we’re constantly told that the chances of a big win on the lottery are so small they’re almost zero, but two facts keep people playing: firstly, people do win. All the time. Secondly, while, almost by definition, any large lottery jackpot has a huge number of people competing for it, some lotteries are easier to win than others.
In Ireland’s Lotto, for example, players must choose 6 correct numbers from a possible 45, raising their chances of winning the jackpot a little compared to, say, the UK lottery. In June 2008, a syndicate composed of 16 quarry workers from Carlow won almost €19m; €1.2m each. Yet some of them, including Robert Lewis and Pat Kearns, were back at work first thing the next day! There are ways to enjoy Irish Lotto if you’re outside the country; Coral, for example, offers fixed odds betting on the 6 number draw results.
In truth, €1.2m, while not to be sneezed at, wouldn’t be enough these days for some people to give up work permanently, especially if they have kids and a sizeable mortgage. Some lotteries, however, could put you – and your kids – into the ranks of the idle rich forever.
EuroMillions is now 10 years old, and has made some people seriously wealthy. In August 2012, Adrian and Gillian Bayford from Suffolk in the UK won €190m, the biggest EuroMillions pot ever. Gillian, who worked on a children’s ward at a hospital in Cambridge, said she would quit, but Adrian planned to stay at his music shop. For comparison, they’re now richer than Tom Jones!
Spain’s Christmas lottery holds the record for the largest jackpot ever, reaching €720m in 2012; however, the pot is split across a number of winning tickets, as several versions of each set of numbers are sold. The €720m was split into €4m prizes across 180 winners. For gigantic individual prizes, we have to look across the Atlantic to the USA.
Mega Millions operates across multiple states and US jurisdictions, from Arizona to the US Virgin Islands. (Ironically, Nevada – home of Las Vegas – does not allow state lottery participation.) In March 2011, a single ticket won $319m, paid as an annuity. Beware though – lottery winnings in the US are taxable!
Sources: telegraph.co.uk / thejournal.ie / thesun.co.uk / csmonitor.com / timesunion.com