There are many lotteries running the world over, but it’s in Europe and the United States that the biggest jackpots are won. For whatever reason, people in these parts of the world just can’t get enough of the lottery, and year on year the numbers continue to grow.
Whilst the basics of each of the lotteries are the same, the process of how they work and, most importantly, how they pay out, can differ quite a lot. This then has an effect on the amount of money that is awarded from the pot.
One of the key things to note with pretty much all of the lotteries that we mention on this page is that only a portion of the total prize pool is actually distributed as prize money. Percentages can range, but on average around 70% of most of the money collected is then distributed as winnings. The rest goes to good causes, costs, and then a kitty to market the lottery the following week.
For example, if there is £50 million on offer and they hand out all of the money, the next week when it resets to £0 fewer people will be interested in winning it, so few people will enter. However, if they keep back say £15million from that amount for the following week, it keeps interest high.
Some lotteries are bigger than others and this is usually reflected in the size of the country. Here are some of the biggest overall jackpots in the world.
Spanish Christmas Lottery
You thought we were going to start in the United States, right? Well, the biggest lottery with the biggest prize pool actually takes place once a year in Spain. The Spanish Christmas Lottery is an event that the whole country gets involved with, making it a huge spectacle and a real date in the diary. It run just once a year at Christmas time and tickets are often bought for friends and family as Christmas gifts.
This lottery is the second oldest in the world and has been running since 1812 if you can believe it. The Spanish Public Administration run the lottery and they oversee it every year.
It runs a lot differently to how most modern-day lotteries run and can be quite confusing when looking at it for the first time. The lottery is based on tickets that have 5 numbers labelled like this: #00000 to #99999. The shrewd lottery fans amongst you will notice that this only provides 100,000 numbers, which is small for a lottery.
To overcome this, the lottery includes several series’ of numbers, which means that there are people with the same number but from different series. It works a little like having a colour and then number in a traditional church raffle.
The cost to enter is surprisingly high at €200 for each ticket, but to make the process more accessible and popular throughout the country each ticket comes as a block of 10, which means that they are perforated and can be torn up to create separate tickets. Each of these sub-tickets can be bought for just €20. If one of these sub tickets wins, then they are entitled to 10% of the prize money that the €200 ticket it came from has won.
€20 is still quite costly for a lottery ticket, so many places then create their own shareholders for each ticket, again getting 10% of the smaller ticket for the cost of €2. This is a common ploy for charities, who sell shares in their tickets for €2 plus a charitable donation to their charity for €1. Winners then get 1% of the overall prize pool for €2.
The overall prize pool is based on 70% of the total amount of money that is taken each year. There are often up to 200 series of 99999 tickets on offer for each draw, although this does go up and down each year; in recent years the average number has been around the 160 mark. This means that the total prize pool for the lottery is €2.24 billion, which makes it the largest in the world.
However, payouts for the lottery are fixed. So, the winner gets €4 million which is a pre-set first prize for getting all 5 numbers, 2nd prize gets €1.25 million, and 3rd gets €500,000. There are over 15,000 ticket combinations that will get paid each year. Obviously as there are multiple people all with the same number, this means that there are multiple winners for each bracket. If there are 165 series sold, this means that 165 people will be winning €4 million.
It’s a unique lottery as very few others work in the same way, but it’s one of the most fascinating in that it can make a lot of people very rich all on the same day. In fact, a lot of people in the same area all buy tickets together, so it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple winners across a small Spanish town or village, which is an amazing sight to see and probably quite a boost to the local economy!
Powerball – United States
We can’t really go too much farther in this article without talking about Powerball In the United States. The game has been running since 1992 and is one of the biggest lottery games that you can play anywhere in the world.
The game runs across 44 states of the US and is coordinated by the Multi-State Lottery Association, which is a non-profit organisation. The states that aren’t included in the game are that of Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada (ironic) and Utah, as lottery betting is illegal in those states.
The game is pretty simple to work with; each ticket costs just $2 and from that you need to choose 5 numbers from a set of 69 white balls, and then 1 number from 29 red balls – this one is your ‘Powerball’. Winners will need to match all 6 of the balls, and the number of the red Powerball can be the same as a white ball.
What’s interesting to see is that the number of balls and the difficulty in the game has slowly but surely increased over the years. The game initially started with 45 white balls and 45 red balls, with the jackpot odds standing at around 1 in 54 million.
The most recent change and the process that you see today will require 5 numbers from 69 and then 1 from 26 white balls. This is an overall increase of just 5 balls, but the odds winning have increased by almost 6x, with the jackpot chance standing at around 1 in 292 million.
Another key point to note with Powerball is that the winner has two options when it comes to claiming their money. They can either take it as one lump sum straight away or as a total of 30 payments that are spaced out over a period of time. The reason they offer two options is that in the US, lottery winnings are taxed, unlike in the UK. Players would actually pay more in tax by opting to receive it as a lump sum than they would if they received their money in installments.
The Powerball still holds the biggest ever win in US history, although it was split by 3 ticket holders sharing a $1.58 billion jackpot and a cash value of $985 million. It also has the second highest single ticket win in history, with $477 million being paid out in March 2019. Astonishingly there have been several winning tickets, all over the sum of $131 million, that still remain unclaimed.
Mega Millions – United States
Mega Millions used to be known as The Big Game when it was first conceived in 1996, but they eventually changed their name to Mega Millions in 2002. The game was set up on the success of the Powerball game and also brings huge jackpots.
This lottery was originally was only offered to 6 states in its first year, they were; Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia. A change to the format in 1999 saw the prize winners able to take their money as cash for the first time, instead of installments.
As the popularity of the game started to increase, so did the number of states that allowed it to operate in their jurisdiction. Lots of the success came off the back of the Powerball, game and whilst both were very similar in terms of how they worked – the format of the game is very similar, choosing 5 from 70 white balls and 1 from 25 “Mega Balls” – the prizes used to vary, although the Mega Millions game is starting to rival that of Powerball.
The jackpots for the game now start at $40 million and then continues to roll over as the games go unbeaten. Jackpots are usually around the $200million mark, although the biggest came in October 2018 when 1 ticket holder was able to scoop $878 million from the $1.5 billion jackpot that was on offer. Amazingly, the winner took 6 months to come forward.
EuroMillions – Europe
As we step away from the US we head back to Europe, with the next biggest lottery spanning the whole continent. The game was initially started by the Lottery committees that from Spain, France and the UK. But it didn’t take long for Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland to all jump on board as well, making for a much bigger lottery and a much bigger prize.
The price of a ticket for the EuroMillions is going to range given that not all the countries use the same currency. This means that technically there are some countries that offer more value than others, although it’s marginal. In the UK the price of ticket is £2.50.
The game requires you to choose 5 numbers from 1 to 50 and then 2 ‘star’ numbers from 1 to 12. There are two draws per week that run on a Tuesday and Friday. The chances of winning the jackpot are around 1 in 139 million, which may seem high, but is considerably lower than either of the two US lotteries.
The biggest win came in 2017 when a player from Spain scooped an impressive £170 million from just a single ticket. In the UK, the biggest winner came about in 2012 when someone won just over £148 million.
National Lottery (Lotto) – UK
The National Lottery is probably the best-known lottery of all for people based in the UK. It’s been running since 1997, and in that time has raised huge sums of money for charitable causes, as well as creating countless UK millionaires.
The running of the lottery is undertaken by the Camelot Group, and they hold the license from the UKGC which allows them to legally operate. Initially, the National Lottery Commission oversaw how the games were run, but this was then abolished and the task of integrity passed over to the newly formed Gambling Commission in 1994, who now oversee all forms of gambling in the UK.
The National Lottery was renamed to simply ‘Lotto’ in 2002 in an attempt to revive the game from declining ticket sales. There are two draws per week that take place on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
The game requires the player to choose 6 numbers from 1 to 59. To win the jackpot they need to have all 6 numbers correct. The odds of winning the jackpot is 1 in 45 million and the average jackpot payout is around £5 million. It’s not all about personal gain though: it was reported in 2016 that the National Lottery had raised over £35 billion for good causes.
The biggest winners of the UK Lottery were Colin and Christine Weir, who took home £161 million in 2011. There have been 7 other winners to net over £100 million since the draw began in 1997. What’s unique about the National Lottery is that no tax is paid on any winnings so all monies are paid to the winners in full.
Super Enalotto – Italy
Italy are able to boast another of the biggest lottery jackpots across Europe with their version of the UK’s ‘National Lottery’ – it’s been running since about the same time as well, with the first one airing in 1997. There are three draws that take place throughout the week on Tuesdays, Thursday’s, and Saturdays.
Players need to choose 6 numbers from 90 and match them all to win the jackpot. This means that the chances of winning are low, with odds of just 1 in 622 million for each winning ticket. However, since the chances of winning are so low, it means that the jackpots often roll over, so they become quite large.
The biggest winning ticket came in 2010 when, after 8 months of rollovers, the jackpot was eventually won at €177 million. The winners were a syndicate made up of 70 people in total, making it one of the biggest syndicate jackpot wins in the world at that time. The biggest single prize winner came in 2009, when a player won a jackpot standing at €205 million.
Eurojackpot – Europe
The Eurojackpot is a rival to that of the EuroMillions, but it includes a wider range of counties than are eligible to play the EuroMillions. They include places like Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Poland.
The game requires players to choose 5 numbers, plus 2 special numbers from 1 to 10. The odds of winning are 1 in 95 million, so if you are looking at probability it’s one of the highest. This means that the jackpot has been designed to pay out more frequently than most, and this is why the size of the jackpots don’t quite match those of the EuroMillions.
The biggest win came from a player in Germany who was able to win £81 million in 2014. The maximum prize pool that has ever been on offer is €90 million, and with these lotteries almost 90% of the prize pool is paid back to the players.