issues and experts

Scratch these off of your Christmas shopping list – statistics prof

December 17, 2015
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Last minute Christmas shoppers are a boon to the lottery business—who can resist buying a $2 stocking stuffer that could result in millions to the recipient? Tom Loughin can. He is chair of SFU’s Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science.

“While the draws are as random as they can be, the whole game is rigged against the player. The odds and payoffs are such that, on average, a person who plays consistently is merely piling up bigger and bigger losses,” says Loughin. “The odds of winning the jackpot are so bad that, if you played one entry every week, you’d need to be over 186,000 years old, just to have half a chance of ever winning it, and you’d have spent over $29M, so probably not worth it.”

Based on Loughin’s data on 6/49 draws the most popular times for people to buy lottery tickets are when the jackpot gets disproportionately large, and at Christmas.

Tom Loughin, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, 778.782.8037; tloughin@sfu.ca