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What are the odds? A closer look at instant games

March 13, 2017 Posted by NC Lottery at 7:25 PM

We are asked many questions about how the lottery works. One topic that comes up frequently is the odds. Here is an example to show how they work for instant games.

Let’s say there are 10 million tickets printed for a $5 game, and the odds of winning including break-even prizes are established at 1 in 4. So most tickets don’t win, which is where prize money comes from. Some tickets will win larger prizes – and a few will beat the odds to win a top prize.

If 10 million tickets were 100 marbles, here is what that 1:4 proportion looks like with winning marbles distributed at random. Here, the light blue ones win, the gray-blue ones do not. Now imagine these marbles are in a bag. Every time you reach in, to get a light blue one, you have to be lucky.

Big Winners

So while the overall odds of winning in this example are 1 in 4, that does not mean that every fourth marble grabbed will be light blue. You could reach in 10 times in a row without getting a light blue marble. And, because of luck, a person could reach in three times and get a light blue marble each time, too.

You can’t choose the odds for a particular game. But you can choose to be informed, which promotes responsible play. We’re sharing this as part of Problem Gambling Awareness Month. This year, March 14 is Gambling Disorder Screening Day. For those that might need them, resources are available.

Through the North Carolina Problem Gambling Helpline, licensed counselors can assist 24 hours a day to coordinate free, confidential in-person or phone-based counseling. They can be reached by calling 877-718-5543, texting morethanagamenc to 53342 or by live web chat at


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9/10/2017 10:13 - TANISIA P.

I would like to know when is the set date for X CASH and how many entries are there so far,HOPE TO BE THE WINNER FOR THIS 1 HAVE PLENTY OF ENTRIES TO BE CHOSEN FOR AT LEAST 1 OF THE PRIZES HOPEFULLY A TOP PRIZE...GD LUCK TO ALL THE LOTTO PLAYERSNC Lottery
No date has been set for the final X The Cash second-chance drawing. The third drawing was held on Aug. 9. So far, there are 1,631,338 entries. Good luck.

3/17/2017 10:01 - William L.

The EZ match on the Cash 5 are there ever any winners? The most I see is $5 or $10.NC Lottery
There are EZ Match winners all the time. But because the top prize is $500 and does not require a player to collect the prize money at a claims center, we don't know the identity of a winner unless he or she shares that information with us.

3/17/2017 04:49 - michael e.

I put my numbers in in the luck for life and the web said I had no matches but it was wrong I actually had two matches making 3.00 dollars on this game whats wrong with this web site? So I just cleared my matches and I will start over next week . NC Lottery
Thanks for the report. We'll have the web folks look into it.

3/17/2017 04:07 - Tony T.

Turbo said ;"Best advice I can give, whether u buy 1 tic or 10, take them home to scratch. That way no 1 but u knows if they are winners or not & no one will be tempted to buy the next few, including you. " That is one good advice but I still don't win much doing it. I also look at HOW MANY tickets are left in the game at NCEL and HOW MANY of the larger prizes are left before I buy any tickets, better odds that way.

3/17/2017 11:40 - Randy M.

Well I posted my question about how the game is play the pick 4 1 off, I am getting a bad feeling about this, because the one minute they are claiming the game is played a certain way, then as soon as I say Ive got the winning ticket, they say its played a different way, then I am just suppose to mail them my ticket? that is pretty dangerous don't you think? I think I am going to get an attorney, and contact the news media, because the machines are paying the wrong numberNC Lottery
We e-mailed you directly with contact information for our customer service and security teams. Please get in touch with them directly so they can assist you.

3/17/2017 12:31 - Bobby D.

How many entries did you get it so far for spring ahead?NC Lottery
As of Sunday night, there were 403,978 entries in the Spring Ahead drawing. Good luck!

3/16/2017 10:50 - Charlene W.

We should not have to ask store owners and employers about their no play policy, This should be the law PERIOD , if it don't change and the winnings don't improve with areas too then I believe the sales will go down until something gets done and changed with all of this corruption, after all the ncel makes billions off of scratch offs alone.

3/16/2017 10:02 - Charlene W.

The winnings in these SAME areas has NOTHING to do with how many neighbors you have, the population or the other hogwash you read, folks it has to do with HOW many winning tics they decide to put there, it is all pre-planned.

3/16/2017 08:42 - RONALD C.

It seems there are better odds of being hurt seriously or having something bad happen than winning a scratch off or the lottery. It even appears that becoming President or a billionaire offers better odds than winning the lottery or a scratch off. If only those darn scratch off odds were accurately reported giving players an accurate picture of your chances of winning. A 1 in 2.81 chance does not mean you will win with every third ticket unfortunately. When ticket distribution is managed it increases the odds against one winning. Play responsibly and have fun. Do not spend money you need and do not put your hopes in the lottery rescuing you, it won't. It is a voluntary tax that has been co-oped for general revenue. Education lottery is a misnomer now.

3/16/2017 03:49 - Mike S.

How does a person claim an LZ prize and where are the claim forms?NC Lottery
After a players' club member has responded to notification that they have won a prize in a Rewards or second-chance drawing, they are provided by email or can download the same claim form they would to collect a prize won on a lottery ticket. They're on our website, here:

3/16/2017 03:32 - NC Lottery

We appreciate all the feedback and suggestions we get on the blog and through social media. Lottery leadership reads what players have to say and take it into account in their decision-making in the future.

3/16/2017 03:32 - NC Lottery

@ 87SUPERGLIDE - As you also know, a winner of $100,000 or more must claim the prize at lottery headquarters. As part of a news release, the minimum public information about the winner required by law is name, hometown, game played and amount won. In an effort to be transparent, the lottery shares in those news releases if the winner of $100,000 or more owns a store or purchased the ticket at the store where they work. But the lottery awards more than $4 million a day in prizes, most of which are not prizes of $100,000 or more. Unless a member of the communications team interviews the winner of a big prize and issues a news release about it, the lottery does not have the resources to especially identify that information for every claim. Unless a winner shares his or her employment information with us on a winner questionnaire, the occupation of those who win less than $100,000 is not something shared on our website and is not a matter of public record.

3/16/2017 03:32 - NC Lottery

@ 87SUPERGLIDE - As you know, retailers and employees are allowed to play the lottery in North Carolina and in every state that has a lottery. Retailers are also allowed to participate in our Rewards program. If an individual is the owner of a store that sells lottery tickets, or if an individual acknowledges having a retail association, the lottery's security division gives extra scrutiny to claims of $600 or more before it can be awarded. Whether a person has a retail association or not, unless there is evidence someone has done something that suggests a claim should not be validated, a prize is awarded. Just as it is up to players to sign their tickets to establish ownership to claim a prize, it is up to every player if he or she wants to get the additional benefit of entering their tickets for Rewards points for more chances to win.

3/16/2017 03:10 - Jim P.

First, can you explain exactly how the odds are figured for each scratch-off game. Second what happened to scratch-off game #380. ThanksNC Lottery
Every scratch-off game is built differently. Ticket sales create a prize pool from non-winning tickets that is then divided up among prizes at every level from top prize down to break-even. Generally speaking the lower the cost of the ticket, the longer the odds and the higher the cost of the ticket, the better the odds. That's why a $1 ticket might have 1 in 4.95 odds of winning at least $1 back whereas a $30 ticket might have 1 in 2.81 odds of winning at least $30 back. Every game is different and, for each one, you can click on the "How to Play & Odds" link on that game's page on our website. There you can see exactly how many prizes a game starts with at every level from break-even to top prize. Game #380 was ended on March 3 because it was more than 99% sold through. The claim deadline is June 1.

3/16/2017 02:13 - Mike S.

@ TEXRICO - LZ why don't you publish if they are a store owner - the main NCEL page does in the news releases - too many store owners cashing in on second chance?NC Lottery
Please see our full responses below.

3/16/2017 12:50 - Crystal M.

SC residents LUCKEZONE Members? How?NC Lottery
You don't have to live in North Carolina to buy a lottery ticket in North Carolina or to participate in the Rewards program. You do, however, have to be in North Carolina to make a purchase through subscription services. The key is where a person is when the purchase is made -- the Rewards program are extra chances to win at no additional cost, so there is no legal restriction on where a person must be when they use their points to enter drawings.

3/16/2017 12:03 - NC Lottery

@ PLAYER (CBFAN) - The Winners' Board is not a comprehensive list of who won the lottery. Last year the lottery paid out $1.5 billion in prizes and 58 times players won $1 million or more. A list of all the prizes remaining at every level for every instant game is published on our public website so players can be informed about the games they want to play. The 25,000 population of Holly Springs is approximately one quarter of once percent of the state population. It's not easier or harder to win the lottery in Holly Springs, there are just 10 million other people living across the state, many of whom are also taking a chance to win.

3/16/2017 12:00 - mark g.

The odds of winnig millions ate slim to none! Its like losing a ring in the ocean chances is you will never recover responsable people! It only takes $1 to win...JS

3/16/2017 11:54 - mark g.

Iv been playing the state lottery for over 10 years and spent two retirements over...and the most iv ever won was $25 so if that doesnt tell you how bad the odds are then i dont know what will responsable people!

3/16/2017 11:50 - Charlene W.

If you look through the winners list of scratch off winners you will find 99% of them winning $1000, and about 3 from Fuquay /Holly springs only.I come to the conclusion if you want a shot at winning anything then wait very beginning ,middle or end of games when they start or end because the NCEL wants your money for obsolete winnings to make enough of of these tics before they give out big prizes,I've done lot of research on this so you have a better shot of winning on older ticsNC Lottery
Please see our full response below.

3/16/2017 11:31 - Kicia P.

What happens when you can not notify a winner? Do you select someone else to win?NC Lottery
Alternates are selected in every random drawing. If a winner does not respond to notification including email, telephone and certified mail within 30 days, a prize is awarded to an alternate.

3/16/2017 11:17 - NC Lottery

@ TEXRICO - There are a lot of assumptions built into your question. Without knowing how often someone takes a chance to win, it is impossbile to say how much good luck factored into their win. When someone presents a ticket for claim who has a retail association, that claim is given extra scrutiny before it is determined if the prize can be awarded. When there is evidence of fraud, the lottery does not award a prize. Every state lottery across the country allows lottery retail owners and employees to play the lottery. Winners in Rewards drawings are not identified on the page as owning or not owning a store, so we are not sure how you know if a person who wins a lottery drawing is a store owner or not. Rewards drawings are extra chances to win at no extra cost, and every entry a person makes has just as good a chance of winning as an entry anyone else makes.

3/16/2017 11:09 - NC Lottery

@ SLEANZA - Thanks for the questions. Different ball sets are selected at random before the drawing is held, and which one is used has zero impact on the random results of the drawing. Lottery ball sets are tested and certified by the Standards Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture is a regulatory agency responsible for enforcing the the NC Weights and Measures Act. An auditor from Thomas & Gibbs is present to ensure that the lottery follows the detailed security procedures, that there are no anomalies with the pretests or procedures for the live drawing, and certifies the results of the drawing. You're welcome to contact our security division to come to WRAL to attend the live drawing and see the extensive care taken in the entire two-hour process to ensure the integrity of the drawing for fairness to all players.

3/16/2017 10:33 - NC Lottery

@ YEAKEN - Because there are millions of total tickets and tens or hundreds of thousands of packs of tickets but only 6,800 total retailers statewide, and such comparitively few top prize tickets, and because the lottery follows approved best practices accepted in the industry, an instant game will not end within a week. But there have been times when all the top prizes were won when a game was only 75% sold through and the lottery paid out a higher percentage of prizes than the game was designed to pay out. And on occasion games sell through 99%+ and top prizes are not claimed for a variety of reasons.

3/16/2017 10:33 - NC Lottery

@ YEAKEN - We are doing our best to answer questions from players and we understand why people are interested to know how things work. It is true that nobody knows when or where a top prize winning ticket will show up until it is scratched. Winning tickets are distributed at random throughout the entire printing run of the game with sophisticated algorithms designed to ensure that there is a mix of packs of tickets with large and small prizes in the marketplace at any given time. That is necessary to make instant games fun for players for the lifetime of the game and fair to everyone who plays.

3/16/2017 10:27 - Dennis C.

Folks are a lot smarter than the NCEL gives us credit for. An earlier poster was spot on, the algorithms are written to feed and create an addiction. It is not rocket science. We have to play smart, study the system and to beat them at their own game.NC Lottery
Out of respect for our players, we publish comments both positive and negative and do our best to provide information to folks with questions and concerns. Instant tickets are printed to ensure there is always a mix of packs of tickets in the marketplace with big and small prizes, to make the game fun as an entertainment product. You've been reading the blog for a long time and you've seen us encourage people to play responsibly with money they can afford to spend on games of chance with no guarantee of winning. This very blog is about encouraging people to understand the odds and play responsibly.

3/16/2017 10:18 - michael b.

to the winners of the 2nd chance drawing where they enter there scratch off tickets and the other game what the average point they entered when they won just trying to get an ideaNC Lottery
The blog moderators don't have that information. There are hundreds of thousands of entries made into the drawings, and there are more than 800,000 players' club members.

3/16/2017 10:10 - cathy l.

Wow!!I don't read the blogs often,but did today. Seems like it's all about the same thing. If this many people are upset,maybe you need to take a closer look and rally listen to what they're saying. NC Lottery
We understand why people share their view on the blog, they are interested to know how the lottery works and want to be sure it is fair to every player. Lottery decision-makers read the blog comments and responses. The blog moderator team does its best to respond to people who have specific questions and concerns here on the blog. If anyone has a customer service question, the primary way to get an answer is by calling customer service at 877-962-7529 between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

3/16/2017 09:15 - brad k.

I purchased a powerplay ticket about a month ago with the power ball and 1 number on it times 2. I took it to a local sheetz store to cash in the next morning! but WO I was told it was already cashed in? when I questioned the old man about about it he told me it happens all the time. so I mailed it to the lottery com. received a phone call a few days later to confirm, I haven't heard back yet (2 weeks) I believe the older gentleman cashed the ticket as soon as I left??? I know this is long, but this is troubling that it is possible for an employee to do this!NC Lottery
This is something we hope you will call our security division to report and explain the details: 888-732-6235

3/16/2017 08:52 - michael s.

There is a way that store owners and clerks can increase their odds. Knowing how many winners are in a given pack of tickets, a person watching the sales will see the number of winners. Of course some people do not scratch the ticket immediately but a high enough percentage do to allow an observant clerk to see when the pack is "rich". If he sees 15 losers out of a 30 ticket pack he would know that the odds for the remainder are better than they were when the pack was opened. It is akin to counting cards at blackjack.

3/16/2017 08:50 - Linda S.

Personally I like the machines harder for the clerks or store owners to know what ticket you purchase or if it's a winner. Maybe one day all scratch off tickets will be sold through a machine. No one is making anyone play, if you are unhappy with the payout or lack of...dont play.

3/16/2017 08:39 - Crystal M.

My question is about the Second Chance entries. If I have 500 entries from the X the cash games, how do they keep up with these and how do they know they belong to me? What is the procedure? Please clarify. Thanks :-)NC Lottery
Second-chance drawings are held using a random number generator (RNG). The RNG is instructed to select a certain number of winners from a range of the total entries made into a drawing. Each of your 500 entries is in that range. After the RNG selects winning entry numbers at random, those entry numbers are then traced back to the Lucke-Zone member who made those entries.

3/16/2017 07:20 - Dennis M.

I have not seen you give a simple,valid why store owners seem to win more often,plus these store owner's name seem to popttup very often on the Lucky Rewards page..very strange and unusal NC Lottery
Please see our full response below.

3/16/2017 06:52 - Mary M.

Thank you so very much for bringing KENO to our lottery!!!! I've made several request and I am super thrilled!!! Thank you North Carolina

3/16/2017 01:25 - mark g.

The lotto averages around 180million per day just on scratch offs do the math...and the lotto says that last year they paid out 1.5billion in winnings keep in mind the powerball last year was up to a billion dollars and they paid the educational system 650million my question is where did the rest of the billions go from the scratch offs that were made? The powerball & megamillions and those tickets are there to throw you off from the profits they make with the scratch-offs...dont be fooled its a money making responsable people!!!NC Lottery
The lottery's distribution of revenue last year was 64% to prizes, 24.5% in earnings for education, 7% in retailer commissions, and 4.5% in administrative expenses which includes 1% investment in advertising, gaming system services, and less than 1% in salaries and benefits. All of the information you are interested in is available on our public website. Powerball jackpots are created by ticket sales made across the country.

3/16/2017 01:24 - kenny h.

Ok lucky zone. I've heard soooo much from you and the anger from honest players. Please explain something to me. You have said that all the tickets are printed at the same time and that you have no idea where top prizes are send. Can you HONESTLY say that it's feasible for new game with 4 top prizes of 4 million dollars could go to one store first day Tuesday and those prizes are won within a few days and you're gonna start pulling that game less than a week old? Thanks in advance. NC Lottery
Please see our full response above.

3/16/2017 12:58 - RONALD C.

In a 2006 opinion, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited the odds of being wrongfully convicted of a crime at 1 in 3703. Review Journal indicated the chances of becoming a movie star to be 1 in 1,500,000 and becoming President of the US at 1 in 10,000,000. The dreaded IRS audit gives you a 1 in 175 chance of happening and becoming a billionaire at 1 in 785,000. This one is really strange. How many meteorites have you seen? Well Review Journal reported the odds of being crushed by one at 1 in 700,000.

3/16/2017 12:54 - RONALD C.

According to NOAA the US population in 2016 was 318,000,000. The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year is 1 in 1,042,000 according to NOAA. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 13,000 and the odds of being affected by someone who has been struck by lightning is 1 in 1300 according to NOAA. Hmmm!!! Better odds than the lottery or scratch offs and you have control of how your chances improve or get worse.

3/15/2017 08:45 - jackie w.

There is a lot of complaining out here and I have done my part of complaining. It is hard for a person to read odds at 1 in 4.2 and so forth and buy 10-20 tickets and not win anything, I am sure you folks understand this. However what we as players must understand no one is holding a gun to our head, just know when to quit. I said I was going to quit the extreme tickets and I did but not until I had spent too much, my fault. Now today my husband and I bought 8 5 dollar $ tickets and boy I got a shock scratched a thousand dollars off, headed for Raleigh. Folks quit complaining quit spending just get it done already. Have fun and GOD bless.

3/15/2017 08:39 - Bobby D.

How many entries did the winner put it in the Mardi Gras last month drawing?NC Lottery
That information would have to be shared by the player who won the prize.

3/15/2017 08:22 - octavia d.

I live in SC but travel to NC and always get instant tickets...Can you advise if I'm eligible for any of the 2nd chance drawing? NC Lottery
Yes you are eligible :-)

3/15/2017 08:11 - mark g.

I have tryed all means of winning the lotto they have a set range of winners and the systems randomly change where they go and how many winners actually win they control that factor and the odds are living in a bigger city can increase the odds its only logic the bigger the bucket the more marbles it it holds thus more winners,now im sure they have to every now and then re-direct the winning order to make it some what fare,but the fact is they will only program so many big winners period! Its an unfair lottery but thats gambling we all cant win right! Just play responsable!

3/15/2017 07:03 - Anthony B.

I could not help but to weigh in on store owners and clerks buying scratch offs on duty. Firstly, if the owners are doing it, you can be sure the clerks are doing it without any repercussions. I bought a $2 ticket, went outside to scratch it, not a winner, came back to get the next ticket and saw the clerk stuffing several of the same tickets in his pocket quickly. I have had store owners and clerks openly tell me about how much money they have spent or how much they have lost or won. Besides, they have camera's in the stores. So I agree with the earlier comment. If you buy tickets take them home or to the car to scratch. If you win, do not redeem in the same store.

3/15/2017 06:23 - Chester W.

thr lottery needs a makeover, too many folks complaining but falling on deaf ears. please pass along to board members to increase the odds on the scratch off tickets. thx.

3/15/2017 05:51 - STEPHAN L.

I would like to comment on the daily drawing with the balls flying in the containers : in Texas the lottery commission informs in general public what 'ball set' is being used and thus helps players 'guess' the outcome, if that is at all possible. How are the tests on the ball sets performed ? It would be nice to hear some dialogue about Thomas and Gibbs and how they actually maintain 'randomness'. Sometimes I'm not convinced all is on the 'up and up'. Signed : a lottery lover but sometimes doubter !!NC Lottery
Second-chance drawings are held using a random number generator (RNG). The RNG is instructed to select a certain number of winners from a range of the total entries made into a drawing. Each of your 500 entries is in that range. After the RNG selects winning entry numbers at random, those entry numbers are then traced back to the Lucke-Zone member who made those entries.

3/15/2017 05:45 - Robert S.

Since you are using a $5.00 ticket as an example this seems like a good time to bring up the fact that odds are getting worse on the $5.00 tickets. Most scratch offs at his price used to be around 1 in 3.70 range as the Mega bucks still is. Newer five dollar tickets go as high as 1 in 4.32. Why the odds decrease? I play mostly five dollar tickets and watch the lottery website often to see the prizes remaining and odds.NC Lottery
At the $5 price point, our instant games typically range from odds of 1 in 3.9 to 1 in 4.3. Sometimes they are lower (better) than that. Every game is unique in terms of odds and prize mix at various levels. Some players like longer odds to play for more top prizes, others like better odds to win at least their money back. That's why we have a variety of instant games available at any given time.

3/15/2017 05:22 - Charlene W.

Believe me I've read the Charlotte observer about the NCEL as well as lot of other research concerning the lotto ,it is all rigged ,they know where the winning scratch offs are sent and pick draw numbers ahead as well ,most winnings on scratch offs on in the last 3rd of tics ,it's all scam no matter how or what u play ,save the bs excuse NCEL and ask the stores if they have "no play on duty policy "yeah right like they will tell u this it's like asking the NCEL for honesty WAWAWAWAWA

3/15/2017 05:14 - mark g.

Play resopnsable people dont be fooled by this lotto sytem they prey on your hopes&dreamns!

3/15/2017 05:09 - mark g.

Would like to see all fees involved that shows the local government and federal who profits off peoples dreams and hopes ,to many schools i know who need up-grades and new schools,dont be a dumb theres a higher anarchy to why states bring an addictive gambling lotto system to its state "EDUCATIONAL" its what they label it and supposed to help yea and what percent do they actualy recieve lets see it on paper not some programed answer from a 3 party reps who type in our questions and get a suggested computer seponse!?NC Lottery
We don't understand your question. 100% of lottery profits benefit education. You can read independently-audited annual reports on our public website that detail where every penny in lottery revenue goes. We also share reports from the NCGA division of fiscal research that reports where lottery dollars go to specific programs in each county.

3/15/2017 04:45 - mark g.

Nc lotto says it benifits the educational system but to much money is being made from the lottery and seems to me that they could have more winners and still fill thair own needs what ever that may be,i mean they say its for education show me proof then the #'$ just dont add up!?NC Lottery
We responded to your other question on this topic here on this blog post. All of the lottery's financial records are available for your review on our public website in independently-reviewed audited annual reports.

3/15/2017 04:28 - Chris A.

Well check out VA they have that exact game see how they did it. They have a $5 ticket that the min is $10. You already know what you want to make on each game so print the tickets to make it happen. I totally disagree with saying you all don't know where winning tickets go. Someone somewhere has to know otherwise how would you account for the number of tickets out in circulation. I have also purchased rolls of tickets and yes lost my A@@, but at the same time I see it everyday. The lottery is a game of chance, but lets just make to chance more fun for everyone not a select few. Just like the Multiplier Spectacular game it has ended and still had (2) $4,000,000 winners where does that money go? Because you all sold a lot of losers for that game. I have over $6000 worth of losing tickets for it. :(

3/15/2017 04:26 - Margaret G.

Let it be known all the responses that we are getting from our question is a LOT of mambo Jambo that makes no sense at all. I don't care what the % is certain cities are not going to have a cluster of big wins every time new games come out and every ticket you buy in other areas are losers, just doesn't make sense. Keep check on winners for 2 months and see how many winners you get in the same areas over and over again. NC lottery is the worst state lottery system I have ever been a part of. I have played pick 3 and 4 same number for years and never a hit but they can drW the same number in day time/night time draw or the next day. I guess the machines had the exact air flow to push the ball up.

3/15/2017 01:18 - Mike S.

Aren't your "independent" auditors hired by and paid by the NCEL? Just sayin'.NC Lottery
The independent audit of an instant game before it is shipped to the lottery is conducted by a third-party firm contracted by the lottery's gaming vendor, firms such as Deloitte, which serves 80% of Fortune 500 companies. That audit must be clean in order for the game to ship to the lottery. Shipping records confirm the quantity of tickets ordered. The status of a game's prizes is confirmed again when the electronic file is loaded into the gaming system. A post-game audit of an instant game is conducted by the lottery's internal audit staff. All of the lottery's policies are procedures are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure best industry practices are followed.

3/15/2017 12:21 - NC Lottery

@ BPARKER - From our first day, the N.C. Education Lottery has been committed to encouraging responsible play. In addition to being the sole source of funding for the North Carolina Problem Gambling Helpline and counseling services, we work with treatment and prevention advocates to strengthen our program. The lottery does not keep any of its profits, 100% of them go to the state for education. Elected officials, not the lottery, decides how to best use the extra money we make available, and make broader decisions about funding education. The lottery has increased its return to the state every year for 10 years. Last year players won $1.5 billion and the lottery contributed $634 million for education. More information is available in independently-audited annual reports on our public website.

3/15/2017 12:20 - NC Lottery

@ PLAYER - The graphic here is one example of a random distribution. The lottery has never guaranteed that the estimated overall odds of winning for an instant game will play out in exact proportion on any particular roll of tickets. They play out over the course of thousands of packs and millions of tickets. Instant games pay out between 60% and 78% including top prizes. Extreme Millions is built almost exactly the same as Ultimate Millions. We don't recommend playing the lottery by buying rolls of tickets. Because there is never a guarantee you will win more than you wager with games of chance.

3/15/2017 12:03 - Chris A.

I agree the lottery needs to add more winning marbles then.... I have said it over and over again we need a ticket with a min of $10 on a $5 card, plus we need to stop all this 20x with a $1 prize, win it all with a $1 prize. If we put more prizes in the original ticket we will not need a second chance drawing, because everyone will be happy from their first WIN!!!!!!!!! Let's get right.NC Lottery
If the minimum prize someone could win on an instant ticket were double the ticket price, that would actually take hundreds of thousands of winning marbles out of the bag, because it would cut in half the number of tickets that win the smallest prize possible. Prize money comes from non-winning tickets, that's how games of chance work anywhere you play them.

3/15/2017 11:49 - Tony T.

Lucke-Zone Replied You can also ask a store what it's policy is on employees playing while on duty. If a store does not have a "No Play on Duty" policy or will not tell you what its policy is, and that's something that concerns you, we encourage you to give your business to a store that has that policy in place.************ I think many here would love it if NC adopted a NO PLAY AT THE STORE YOU WORK AT OR OWN ! Too ironic so many employees and store owners winning where they work. ( I think many here will agree with me on that too...seems to be a major concern ! ) Just google Charlotte observer and North Carolina lottery folks for an interesting article about this very issue.

3/15/2017 10:25 - TOMMY S.

Sorry, unless that store employee is physic or has x-ray vision you can disregard most of the previous comments. I have kept a running account on the scratch-offs that I've purchased the last 5+ years. And yes for every 100 tickets purchased there's been around 25% winners with a ROI of around 60%. So, unless you are one of the REAL lucky ones that's the results you can expect. I would like to see the NCEL print on the tickets exactly how many of that particular ticket will be printed.NC Lottery
You can easily calculate the total number of tickets printed for any game. Just mutiply the number of top prizes by the odds of winning them and you get the ticket total. If a game has four top prizes and 1 in 1 million odds of winning a top prize, there are 4 million tickets for that game.

3/15/2017 10:22 - NC Lottery

@ UNC4Life - Nobody decides where particular packs of instant tickets are sent, and nobody knows where a winning ticket will show up until it is scratched off. As retailers order tickets, they are distributed accordingly. The lottery orders instant tickets with specifications for how many tickets and winning tickets to be distributed randomly. The game is audited by an independent firm before the game is shipped to the lottery, and is audited again afterwards to ensure that what the lottery ordered is what was delivered. Most times, an instant game ends after the top prize is claimed. Sometimes games have to be ended if they are no longer popular or if space needs to be made for new games that must be scheduled months in advance. Half of unclaimed prize money goes back into the prize pool, the other half goes to education. Prize money comes from ticket sales so if a game ends before it sells out, there is a proportion of prize money that was never generated in the first place.

3/15/2017 10:04 - William A.

How about 12 in a row losers,done it twice. I don't see that on your random ball drop.Done that more than once on the 10 dollar ticket which is supposed to have better odds than what your diagram shows.I also have bought 3 twenty dollar rolls. $600.00 each and here are the results---$245.00,$285.00,$315.00 The lottery says it pays out 61% good luck getting that cause you will need all the luck you can get to beat our lottery. The new 30 dollar tickets right now are running so bad that me and my friends have stopped buying them until we get a better run here in eastern,NCNC Lottery
Please see our full response below.

3/15/2017 07:58 - anthony p.

Just Remember... The Lottery has made more people Homeless,than rich...All lotteries rely on the "addictive type" of player, Just as Casinos do.. The person buying the once a week powerball ticket isn't the player they target, its the ones who spend their entire paycheck on scratch off tickets.. Instant games are the cash cow of lottery... Anything on a Government level is Corrupt, at least a casino doesn't claim to give money to local schools...NC Lottery has such a surplus of Money, but when I talk to any local teacher, they all say the same thing...They are always getting turned downed for needed school supplies, because there's no money....Hundreds of Millions Monthly profit, but the schools are still in need... CORRUPTNC Lottery
Please see our full response below.

3/15/2017 06:01 - Roger B.

I have no problem with a retailer winning, as long as it's not from their store. They should not be able to buy from their store period. Regardless if they're working or not. It makes it look suspect. They're are plenty of places to buy tickets. Rule should be they can never buy from their workplace.

3/15/2017 05:39 - Cathleen J.

Why when i put in my 2nd chance tickets my screen turned black. I started putting my husband tickets with mine.maybe to many???NC Lottery
Anytime you have a technical issue, please click on the HELP link at the top of the screen, or call 877-767-1863.

3/15/2017 04:48 - KARENE C.

I do see alot of people from the Raleigh area wins a lot I mean alot.To me at times it seems obvious that area wins a lot.I read it.NC Lottery
It's not easier (or harder) to win the lottery if you live in Raleigh. You have to keep in mind that as many people live in 21 counties in the western part of the state as live in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte). And that the population of Wake County (Raleigh) is the same as 25 counties combined in the Northeast. It's not easier to win the lottery in a place where more people live. Those particular winners just have more neighbors nearby. If you were to move to Raleigh, you might hear of a winner more often from the city you live in. But it wouldn't be any easier or harder for you to win. Does that make sense?

3/15/2017 01:28 - charles m.

Luke zone, the general Public odds of winning is Way less than 1:4 when you All end games with prizes Still left in that game, so Quit falsifying the odd to Players,thats grounds for a Class action.NC Lottery
The advertised odds of winning are accurate for the entire lifespan of every instant game. The 1 in 4 odds of winning is an example. The odds for every game is published on our website, in stores and on every ticket. Half of unclaimed prize money goes back into the prize pool, the other half goes to education. Prize money comes from ticket sales so if a game must be ended before it sells out, there is a proportion of prize money that was never generated in the first place. The lottery follows best practices that are independently reviewed to ensure fairness to all players.

3/14/2017 10:39 - darryl s.

I don't think the winning scratch tickets are as random as you say after playing rolls for a period of time there was a pattern of winning tickets in a roll out of 30 tickets there was 9 winners all the time and if there was another winner it was a bigger winner like 100 or more

3/14/2017 10:15 - Marty T.

Store owners win at an ASTRONOMICAL RATE. Everyone should read the Charlottesville Observer article about NCEL. Consider the odds to win a Powerball jackpot. The rate at which numerous store owners/merchants win would even be greater than those odds. A statisticians say in the Charlottesville Observer report that them being so lucky were LESS THAN ONE IN TRILLION!!! A statistics professed from UC Berkeley reviewed data from NC & said he recognized trends that suggest fraud. "NC does seem to make it easy for people to do the wrong thing" the stats professor is quoted as saying. Read the article people!! Many links to many Shocking findings!!NC Lottery
Here is some additional information on this topic:

3/14/2017 09:36 - carey m.

People are talking about the scratch offs, and how crooked it all seems. The losers in the garbage can at the convenience store attest to how many losers there are in NC. Since the articles came out, many people do believe that it's rigged. There will be a brand new game, and the morning of the first day of the new ticket, someone will have won a top prize. Happens all the time. Now how, I ask you, does that happen?NC Lottery
As it is explained in this blog, most tickets do not win prizes. That's where prize money comes from. The lottery's operations are independently reviewed to ensure fairness to all players. Sales for instant tickets are highest when they first come out. The more people that buy an instant ticket on a particular day, the more likely it will be that one of those tickets will win a big prize. But that doesn't happen every time a new game comes out. We're excited to meet top prize winners whether it's early in the game's lifespan or later :-)

3/14/2017 08:41 - Esther C.

I'd like to know, in over a year, why has there only been 1 Lucky for Life grand prize winner? Are there not enough people playing the game for a payout?NC Lottery
Like any draw game, the odds of winning playing Lucky for Life are always the same. If 10 times as many people in North Carolina played the game in every drawing, over time, we would see a top prize winner 10 times more often. But if only one person in North Carolina played the game in every drawing, that one person would have the same chance of winning the top prize as any one other player, in any other state. We would love to see another top prize winner here :-)

3/14/2017 08:25 - RONALD R.

Hello. I have noticed that the top prizes for Extreme Millions and 20X The Cash have not been claimed yet. I was wondering, does the lottery wait to put the top prizes into circulation so that the top prizes are not won too early causing customers to lose interest (not buy a particular scratch-off). For example...if all of the 10 million dollar prizes for the Extreme Millions scratch off game were won in the 1st week or month, a lot of players might think it would not be worth $30.00 to play that game. The lottery would be out of 40 million dollars and may not be able to recover its losses.NC Lottery
The lottery doesn't know which packs of tickets have big-winning tickets on them. More than 17.6 million tickets were printed for Extreme Millions, so over the course of 18-24 months retailers will order more packs of tickets that will be distributed to stores. We're excited to have a big winner anytime during the lifespan of an instant game.

3/14/2017 08:16 - Rosemary W.

Thank you so much for taking the time for printing this informative article. This my theory, it is a gamble as simple as that.... We have played 1 cash 5 every day since day one. The most we ever won $1.00 when we do hit. I will win though I can promise you that :)

3/14/2017 07:33 - Willie B.

why bother!!!i spend a lot of money trying to win and most of the time i don't win. i know you won't put this on because you always put me in line for another time or NEVER

3/14/2017 07:25 - Gregory F.

I wish the odds with the marble thing was a lot better .I was mis lead by the odds on instant games.I wish I could win something big in the Ahoskie area. Good luck to all.

3/14/2017 07:16 - Richard C.


3/14/2017 07:09 - GENELLE W.

Interesting Article. How Many Tickets are on one Roll? Also I have heard that there are more winning tickets at the beginning of the Roll than in the middle or at the end of a roll. Is this true?NC Lottery
How many tickets are on a roll depends on the ticket price. For $10, $20 and $30 tickets, there are 30 tickets on a roll. For $1, $2, $3 and $5 games there are $300 worth of tickets per roll. And no, it is not more likely there will be a winning ticket in one part of a roll of tickets than another. That wouldn't be fair. Everyone who buys an instant ticket has the same chance of winning as anyone else, anywhere else :-)

3/14/2017 06:29 - Charlene W.

I ALWAYS scratch tics either in my car or at home ,if everyone else would do this then MAYBE it will help prevent the employees and owners get ide a of winning tics ,I mean LETS USE COMMON SENSE ,this is not however the only solution in preventing crooked store employees from scamming but it's a start .NC Lottery
You can also ask a store what it's policy is on employees playing while on duty. If a store does not have a "No Play on Duty" policy or will not tell you what its policy is, and that's something that concerns you, we encourage you to give your business to a store that has that policy in place.

3/14/2017 06:23 - Charlene W.

Well I'm snapping out of it ,I've bought over past months all sorts ,amounts and multiples of scratch offs and prob win $140 in 2 months ,These scratch offs are obsolete and I decided to quit spending my money on them and to stop making other people rich off my $$$.I believe most winnings are not really on them if at all "maybe near end of game ending ,it is fixed so you will continue to spend money on them with NOTHING in return ,when you can't EVEN WIN ONE dollar off of a $10,$20 or $30 scratch offs it is obviously a problem ,I will use LESS money to play mega and powerball each week spend $6 week to hopefully win my $1 back figured my odds are just the same cheaper ,what a rip off NCEL NC Lottery
If you or anyone else is not enjoying playing games of chance, we support your decision to take a break or not play.

3/14/2017 05:38 - Denver G.

On 3/14/2017 02:39, better said This is the way the big winners do it , and if u don't do it this way , u can just about forget winning the big prizes on the instant tickets. They go in and buy the whole rolls of tickets,**********Better, a ex coworker of mine tried that theory more then once, like every week... He almost lost his house because he was spending $300,$600 & $900 a week on full packs thinking that was a good strategy. IT IS NOT !!!! Best advice I can give, whether u buy 1 tic or 10, take them home to scratch. That way no 1 but u knows if they are winners or not & no one will be tempted to buy the next few, including you.

3/14/2017 05:14 - Margaret G.

Back to the winning map Of clusters Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro and a few other places It's just hard to understand every time there is a big scratch off or cash 5 excluding a few is in these areas. NC lottery is justness a little off when you play pet numbers for 9 years and non have come out is pretty amazing and the way the numbers fall here is off beat as wellNC Lottery
You have to keep in mind that as many people live in 21 counties in the western part of the state as live in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte). And that the population of Wake County (Raleigh) is the same as 25 counties combined in the Northeast. It's not easier to win the lottery in a place where more people live. Those particular winners just have more neighbors nearby. If you were to move to Greensboro or Fayetteville, you might hear of a winner more often from the city you live in. But it wouldn't be any easier or harder for you to win. Does that make sense?

3/14/2017 04:42 - William G.

Who decides which parcels of tickets get sent where? In other words does the NCEL already know where the big winner tickets have been shipped ahead of time? I assume the company you pay to print the tickets has a report stating which rolls have the winners but do they share that with you or does the NCEL only find out when a winner walks in the door? Also, why do i keep seeing games ended where some big prizes are still left? Does NCEL just pocket that instead of allowing players time to win them? Thanks!NC Lottery
Please see our response addressed to you down the page.

3/14/2017 03:33 - Kenneth F.

My point to you guys is this (and I promise this is my last post). Anyone dispensing tickets has an unfair advantage over the general public. You know it and I know it. No one should be allowed to have the upper hand. Thank you.NC Lottery
We aren't here to argue, we're just here to share information. We appreciate you taking time to share your view.

3/14/2017 03:27 - Jonathan B.

Hey Lucke-Zone, is there any plans in the future to offer a bigger prize for matching 3 numbers in the Cash 5 game? I am a loyal player of the Cash 5 but I think that $3-$5 for a 3 number win is way too low. I see other states that offer $15-$20 for the same match. Please let me know if this is something that could happen in the future. ThanksNC Lottery
All of the prize money for Cash 5 comes from ticket sales of Cash 5. If more prize money was paid for matching 3/5 numbers, that would mean directing prize money away from matching either 4/5 or the jackpot. It's always possible the game could be updated in the future any number of ways but we don't have any information to share about that right now.

3/14/2017 02:56 - Kenneth F.

The store owner in Cary just won big. Other store owners have been big winners in the past. If that many win big, then many others are playing and not winning as well. They should be prohibited from playing. But thank you for responding to my previous comment at least.NC Lottery
Without knowing how often someone plays the lottery, it is impossible to say to what degree luck factored into a big win. When someone with a retail association presents a ticket for claim, the claim is given extra scrutiny by our security division. If there is evidence to suggest there is something amiss with any lottery claim, the prize is not awarded and further investigation is done. A prize can only be awarded if it is deemed to be legitimate.

3/14/2017 02:39 - bryan h.

This is the way the big winners do it , and if u don't do it this way , u can just about forget winning the big prizes on the instant tickets. They go in and buy the whole rolls of tickets, the player like me that goes in and buys 1 or 2 , doesn't get it.I mean u may luck up once in 10 years and hit 500 or 1000 .By buying the whole roll u increase your chances greatly of winning something substantial. And I do know tht majority of the people playing can't afford to buy the whole roll.So basically the big winners go to whoever can afford to buy by the rolls.NC Lottery
The lottery does not recommend playing this way. Buying one or more rolls of tickets does not guarantee you will win more than you wager. Sometimes it just takes one ticket to win a prize, so we hope folks will play when they feel lucky. We meet lots of winners who bought just one or a few tickets on a whim and that's how they won a top prize.

3/14/2017 02:28 - Kenneth F.

I agree 100% with the above comments regarding store owners and employees! It is so frustrating to see a store owner win a big prize. They have an advantage over the general public, because they dispense the tickets. The customer scratches a loser in the store, gets mad and leaves. The store owner buys the next ticket and hits. It's not fair!!NC Lottery
For the exact reasons described in this blog, there is never a guarantee that the next ticket will be a winning ticket. It is up to each player if he or she wants to scratch an instant ticket in the store or somewhere else. More than 80% of all retailers in our state report having a "No Play on Duty" policy, including 99% of corporate retailers such as grocery and convenience store chains. Players are welcome to ask a store what its policy is before they decide to play the lottery at a particular store.

3/14/2017 02:27 - gerald k.

Where is report of nc $$$NC Lottery
You can read independently-audited annual reports on our public website:

3/14/2017 12:53 - gloria g.

...and casino's aren't built by winners either...

3/14/2017 12:33 - Thomas P.

Great article

3/14/2017 12:27 - William D.

Very good info. Now maybe some will listen instead of ... And now the optical illusion above I see a 3 and a 7. keep looking and you might see the numbers for the next Big Drawing. Good Luck Everybody for one day to win.

3/14/2017 11:42 - Berry B.

Thanks for the info,i have won much,loss much,i really don't play like I did before,the game I like all printing was cancel,thanks for helping me not come a addict to the lottery.

3/14/2017 11:39 - mark g.

The lotto just need to add more winning marbles then!They have the money to do it.iv done the math as-well and all the millions they make per minute they can afford it period!NC Lottery
The lottery in North Carolina was created to offer fun games for the chance to win prizes for the purpose of raising money for a good cause. 100% of the lottery's profits benefit education.

3/14/2017 09:54 - Mike S.

Here’s some states that prohibit Play Before Pay and buying winning tickets. AZ rules: Retailers and their employees are not allowed to play any of the Lottery games (Scratchers or Draw Games) while working. Retailers and their employees are not allowed to validate their own tickets (Scratchers or Draw Games). Retailers and their employees must purchase their tickets from an on-duty employee and must pay for the tickets prior to playing the games (Scratchers or Draw Games). CA rules: Retailers that play Lottery games and products are required to pay for tickets in full prior to play and are subject to the same rules, conditions, and Lottery regulations as non-Retailer players. Retailer’s Contract may be terminated if: Retailer purchases or otherwise acquires winning tickets from prize winners. Furthermore, the Lottery will not honor a Retailer’s claim to a prize that has been purchased or otherwise acquired from a prize winner. NCEL only recommends these types of rules but there are no repercussions.

3/14/2017 09:41 - Michael H.

This is why it's called the lottery folks! Everyone knows there a very slim chance you Will win! At least some of the proceeds go To education!NC Lottery
Last year, players won $1.5 billion in prizes. Because of that, together we were able to raise $634 million for education.

3/14/2017 09:20 - Rebecca K.

How are the 2nd chance prizes for the 2nd chance games funded? From the sales of the tickets or the from original prize pot? I ask because it seems once these games became the norm, the actual prizes on the cards - the amount of the prize and the number of winners- has declined - well, at least, in my experience.NC Lottery
The prize money for a game-specific second-chance drawing, such as Extreme Millions, comes from ticket sales of that specific game. If you add up all the prizes Extreme Millions started with, 98.7% is in prizes that can be won instantly and 1.3% is prizes for the second-chance drawings. By making every ticket eligible for a second chance to win up to $1 million, that's added value on every ticket :-)

3/14/2017 01:26 - Shadi W.

Fixed by way of controlling the output of top and high prize winning instant games. Yes, the odds printed are correct (over the course of each game from day 1 to the closing day). However, the odds are highly misguiding the general public at any particular snapshot in time. Shame shame. NC Lottery
The lottery makes it clear that the odds of winning are set at the beginning of the game and vary for the life of the game. That is true of instant games anywhere. The key is that every player must have the same chance of winning. And that is true of all lottery games in our state. The lottery's policies and procedures are independently reviewed to ensure fairness to all players.

3/13/2017 11:53 - Charlene W.

I think the BIGGEST issue is the NCEL need to change the rules about NO PLAY IN THE STORE YOU WORK AT PERIOD, so maybe something will get changed.

3/13/2017 11:51 - Charlene W.

So in other words, the odds are pretty much ZERO, which is obvious "most tics don't win lol I can relate to this, nice to see ANOTHER store owner WAS not the 1 Mill winner from scratch off, but somehow the winner "did not "seem surprised she had won 1 Mill, I think I would be shocked if it was me.NC Lottery
In this example, one ticket in four wins a prize.

3/13/2017 11:43 - Ms Xzavier C.

Great article!

3/13/2017 11:25 - Thomas H.

You may never pick a light blue odds are possible not granted

3/13/2017 09:27 - Margaret G.

It just appears ( looking at the winning pinpoint map) that the winners are always cluttered in the same area all the time. I live in Raleigh and very few wins. I have lived here for 9 years and I am a loyal player of pick 3,4, cash 5 and scratch offs and have dubbed myself the donator became in this area it just a little mind boggling.NC Lottery
It's not easier or harder to win the lottery if you live in Raleigh. There are lots of folks taking a chance to win here, but the odds are the same for everyone no matter where they live. Good luck to you!

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