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‘It could be you, though probably not’ – crunching the numbers after 46 remarkable Lotto rollovers


Stock image.

Stock image.

Bernard Durkan has called for an audit to be carried out into the National Lottery

Bernard Durkan has called for an audit to be carried out into the National Lottery

Former Mr and Miss World, Kamal Ibrahim and Rosanna Davison celebrating a Lotto giveaway. Photo: Mac Innes Photography

Former Mr and Miss World, Kamal Ibrahim and Rosanna Davison celebrating a Lotto giveaway. Photo: Mac Innes Photography


Stock image.

Mathematically speaking, the statistics are clear. You have more of a chance of being struck by lightning – at one in three million in this country – than you have of winning the Lotto jackpot, at one in almost 11 million.

The National Lottery is almost  prim in its warning. “When you flip a coin, the chance of it landing on heads is the same as the chance of it landing on tails,” it says on its website.

“If you repeatedly flip a coin, and heads comes up a number of times in a row, it is easy to think that tails might be ‘due’ o n the next flip. This belief is called the Gambler’s Fallacy,” it all but tut-tuts.

So while they’re tantalising you with the words “It could be you”, at the same time they are also murmuring “though probably not”.

Still, when faced with a headline like: Politician calls for Lotto draw to be made easier to win – what are we to think? Only that we could search all year long for a story and never come up with one that fills our hearts with more glee. 

Bernard Durkan must smell an election in the offing if he is going around calling for this class of a public inquiry – surely one we could all cheerfully get behind.

“Ahead of tomorrow night’s Lotto draw, the prospect of winning is so remote that punters must be thinking Shergar would have a better chance at winning Squid Game,” the Kildare TD thundered. 

He has called for an audit to be carried out into the National Lottery, as the biweekly jackpot has now rolled over 46 times since it was last won on June 6. 

His remarkable statement is given weight by the fact that he sits on both the Oireachtas Finance and Public Expenditure committees. 

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And while he has insisted that he was not suggesting “anything odd has happened”, he is seeking reassurances, with a full audit into why there has been no winner and a return of the independent observer from KPMG Stokes Kennedy Crowley, who used to stand beside the machine.

“It’s been almost six months since it was won. The jackpot has been stuck on €19m since September.

“I have never agreed with Premier Lotteries Ireland’s decision to increase the number of balls to 47.  I’m old enough to remember 1986 when there were 36 balls and that’s how it should have stayed, ” Mr Durkan said.

Brien Nolan, Associate Professor in the School of Mathematical Sciences at Dublin City University, helped us crunch the numbers. “With players choosing six numbers from 47,  there are approximately 10.7 million options for filling out a Lotto ticket,” he said.

And with around 1.4 million tickets sold for each draw, he says there is roughly a one in 10 chance that the jackpot is won in any given draw  – with a 9 out of 10 likelihood that it will not be won.

“For this to happen 46 times in succession, as it has done, has a probability that is not far off 0.1pc so it is fairly unlikely,” he conceded.

“However, we have to remember that the lottery draw takes place twice every week, so every 23 weeks, we have another ‘experiment’ where we can ask about the outcome of the 46 draws that have just happened.”

Over the whole period of time that the lottery has been in operation, it becomes a lot less unlikely that it would not be won 46 times in a row at least once, he said.

Brendan Guildea, a self-confessed Lotto enthusiast and maths teacher at the Institute of Education, told the Irish Independent that Mr Durkan “is actually 100pc correct”.

“There is something fundamentally wrong with the way the Lotto is running at the moment – there are too many balls,” he said. 

“If we look at the UK equivalent they have 13 times our population but our numbers are way out of order. To compare the draw directly, we should have two-and-a-half million number options but we have 10 million, making it four times less likely that we will win.”

In order to explain so many jackpots rollovers, he believes ticket sales must be down.

He considers it to be good value to do the Lotto and his own top numbers are 10,37 and 42. “10 is the most unloved number in the first 50 numbers, 37 is Sheldon Cooper’s favourite number in The Big Bang Theory and 42 is the answer to everything in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” said Mr Guildea.

But if he won, he would “probably give it all away” as “I’m an old fella now, I don’t need money,” he said.

 The National Lottery said the rollover of 23 weeks was “unprecedented; however, the Lotto is a game of chance”.

“Since September 2015, 80pc of Lotto jackpots have been won within seven weeks and the odds of winning the jackpot have not been altered during this time.” 

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