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Video: How do scratch-off ticket odds work?

March 6, 2019 Posted by NC Lottery at 1:59 PM

The more you know, the more fun you’ll have playing our games. That’s why this month, we’re going to explain some of the most common gambling myths and help you better understand the odds.

We wish every ticket could be a lucky one, but that is just not possible. Each time you buy a ticket, you have to beat the odds in order to win a prize. Watch the video to see how odds for scratch-off tickets work.

Millions of tickets are printed for each game. Some have prizes, some don’t. To calculate the odds of winning a prize on a scratch-off ticket, take the total number of tickets and divide that by the total number of winning tickets.

Odds Myth:
Buying multiple tickets at once improves odds.

FACT: Your odds of winning a prize don’t improve if you buy more tickets. Each individual ticket has the same chance of winning. If the odds of winning a prize are 1 in 2, it doesn’t mean that one out of every two tickets is a winner. Because tickets are randomly distributed across the state, when you buy two tickets, you’ll end up with one of the following combinations:

  • Two winning tickets
  • Two losing tickets
  • One losing ticket and one winning ticket

The odds of winning are printed on the back of each scratch-off ticket. Odds change daily as people win prizes. You can find out how many prizes are available for any game by going to and looking under the “Games” tab. The list is updated on a daily basis so you’ll always know how many prizes are left.  

Remember, it only takes one ticket to win.


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5/09/2019 07:27 - Heather L.

In your response to RON H. (3/09/2019@12:25) I noticed that some games still have 1 remaining top prize, but yet you are ending them shortly (ie the $10 Merry & Bright scratch off). Why is that?NC Lottery
Good catch, Heather. Generally, we try to keep games available until all of the top prizes are won, but as you noted that isn't always the case. The game's popularity and sales also have an effect. If a game isn't popular with our players anymore, it sometimes makes sense to end it and replace it with something new that contains more prizes for players.

3/21/2019 08:19 - Sarah B.

@JACKIE W.: Hi Jackie, We are happy to share that information with anyone who requests it. All you need to do is send an email to and someone will work to compile that report for you. We have strict security procedures in place to ensure that no one knows there a winning ticket ends up--until the lucky winner scratches it. The lottery undergoes a biennial security audit to ensure we are following best practices to ensure fairness to all players and to meet our commitments to operate responsibly.

3/21/2019 06:54 - Lantino G.

Yes i believe some of that. It seems they put these tickets the vast majority of winning tickets in certain areas..certain demographics. I been watching winning closely since the lottery begin here in NC. NC Lottery
Over time, you'll notice that lottery winners come from all walks of life and big wins occur more or less in proportion with the amount of players taking a chance in any given area. Anywhere there are more people taking a chance to win, the odds will play out more often there over time. You'll have a larger volume of both winning and non-winning tickets in proportion with the odds. Best of luck to you.

3/20/2019 05:54 - jackie w.

I have quit playing the lottery but my husband still plays, too much donating for me. With so many complaints about you people know where the tickets go why do you not print out a list of stores and where each store stands as far as sales for the scratch-offs, keno, pick 3, 4, 5,mega and power ball. We were told that a store here in Roxboro was #1 in the state as far as keno goes. I would like to see on your blog what stores sell what and how things are going. Another thing, why do we keep hearing from some of the store owners that you folks know where the winners go? You should want to keep people happy and not be suspicious.

3/19/2019 01:32 - Donna H.

Apologies, how many of the 10M Colossal were printed? NC Lottery
Hey Donna, The easiest way to calculate how many tickets were printed for a game is to take the top prizes for that game and multiply that by the odds of winning the top prize. For Colossal Cash, that number equals roughly 15.8 million tickets.

3/16/2019 02:36 - Donna H.

I know they haven't been distributed but how many of the 10M tickets were printed?NC Lottery
Hi Donna, which scratch-off ticket are you referring to?

3/15/2019 03:09 - Eric C.

Eric T, I have had as many as 15 $5 tickets in a row without a winner. I have also seen 8 $30 tickets in a row win. I have basically been buying 1 ticket at a time for a while and seem to be doing better that way...

3/14/2019 08:38 - Cynthia M.

I recently purchased 4 of the NC Black scratch offs and won on one ticket $2 ten times. How is it that the amount is $2 and not $5, which is the lowest amount the ticket starts at when you look at the winning table for this particular game? $2 is not even listed on the payout tableNC Lottery
Hey Cynthia, It sounds like you won a $20 prize on the ticket, is that right? There are several ways a person could win a prize on a scratch-off. For example, a player could scratch to reveal one $20 spot, two $10 spots, four $5 spots, or even 10 $2 spots. Please remember that the prize payout is for the entire ticket, not per spot. So since won a $2 prize ten times, you actually won a $20 prize. Congrats!

3/13/2019 07:27 - Donna H.

Hi, can you tell me how many of the $30 10M Colossal tickets have been sold to date? I see how many winning tickets remain but would like to know the total sold. ThanksNC Lottery
Hey Donna, As of Saturday, 184,574 packs Colossal Cash tickets have been activated. Please know that this number changes by the minute and since a retailer activates a pack as soon as they open it, this does not mean all of the tickets within these packs have been sold or prizes claimed. Some could be still in the ticket dispenser and some could have been sold but not claimed yet. Hope this helps you find what you were looking for!

3/09/2019 12:25 - Ron H.

Why is a new 100X (blue ticket) released when the old 100X (green ticket) is still active and no announcement date to end the old 100X? Thanks! NC Lottery
Good question Ron. The old 100X The Cash ticket still has a top $4 million prize on it. Our general policy is not to end the game until all the top prizes have been won.

3/09/2019 12:11 - Ron H.

I always scan my tickets after I have scratched them to make sure that I have not missed a winner. I also scan them for points to enter second chance drawings. I can scan for second chance points at any time, but I can not check to see if a ticket is a winner after 12 midnight. I work a late schedule and don't have the opportunity to scratch tickets until late at night. Why can't I scan a ticket to see if it is a winner after midnight? Thanks!NC Lottery
Hey Ron! We are not aware of any issues with the ticket checker feature, but we will check with our team to see if there is any ongoing issue regarding ticket checking after midnight. Pleas know that the ticket checker is unavailable every morning from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. for routine maintenance by our gaming vendor. We recommend just holding onto your tickets until the morning when the system is back up and running.

3/09/2019 01:17 - nc s.

@ NC Lottery, Where were the 2 winning quick pick Cash 5 tickets sold last night? NC Lottery
Good morning! One of the winning tickets was bought online. The other was bought at the Circle K on South New Hope Road in Gastonia.

3/08/2019 06:49 - nc s.

@ Paul G, I'm just curious what you consider a top prize-is it the largest prize a certain game has to offer or a certain amount? You also say this discussion about odds really amounts to nothing, but it does when the lottery provides this false information to persuade the consumer. The Lottery bases it odds on all so called printed tickets that'll never be put into production-Can't be accurate odds so your right if they never stated the odds. They use this tactic because there's no way for anyone to know if they every actually print the amount of winners stated since they've never made it into circulation. Every game gets ended early. NC Lottery
Lottery policy is to end a game once the top prize , aka the prize that is the highest amount, is won.

3/08/2019 08:36 - Mary G.

I personally am glad that the lottery pulls the remainder of tickets once the top prizes are gone. Why would I want to play a game when all the best prizes are gone? All this discussion about odds really amounts to nothing. The odds would be worth looking at if every ticket was right in front of you. But when they're distributed all over the state, it's pure luck. We play for fun. Period. I hope to win as much as the next person, but I seldom do. As far as buying an entire roll of tickets and expecting there has to be a winner in there, it just doesn't work that way. And that's because rolls and rolls and rolls have been sent out, and only a few winners are printed and no one knows where they are. So, play for fun and hope for the best! That's what I do.

3/07/2019 06:17 - nc s.

@NC LOTTERY So your saying every game that was pulled early which is every scratch off ever sold by NC Lottery has the same odds in printed sold tickets and printed unsold tickets-What are the chances of that. If this is true there's no way this printing process isn't rigged and programmed to print winners in that random order. This printing tactic is how the Lottery knows when to end these games early. It's a controlled environment and not random. If this wasn't the case the Lottery would print less tickets since through the years statistics show no scratch off game has ever sold a majority of these so called printed tickets. Then every one could see the accuracy and not just Lottery officials and the so called auditors.

3/07/2019 04:44 - ERIC T.

If that was based on truth then how come I bought $100 worth of Carolina black tickets and not one was a winner I had tickets 1-11 not one ticket a winner and it was also at the Sheetz in Thomasville where the guy bought the lucky ticket I congrats on that guy winning but when you spend that much on those tickets and not one be a winner then that's no fun at all.NC Lottery
Sorry to hear you aren't having more luck, Eric. Every time you play the lottery, it takes luck to beat the odds. That's true whether you play one ticket or 10. We wish every ticket could win a prize, but prize money comes from non-winning tickets. Best of luck to you.

3/07/2019 12:02 - arvin j.

Recently there has been a couple of pick 3 numbers locked or blocked due to Max sales. What is the maximum number the lottery will allow or control to be paid out on pick 3? NC Lottery
Hi Arvin, The liability limit for Pick 3 is $5 million - not in ticket sales, but in potential prize payout should a given number be drawn. The reason for this limit is to ensure that the lottery could pay out the prize money should those numbers hit!

3/07/2019 10:03 - Sarah B.

Hi NC, During the secure printing process, winning tickets are distributed at random throughout the entire printing run of each game. Because they are distributed throughout the entire game, unsold tickets have on average an equal amount of winning and non-winning tickets compared to the sold tickets and stated odds. The lottery's finance department conducts an end-of-game reconciliation after games end. That process verifies total sales, total payouts, and accounts for unclaimed prizes at every level and any inventory of returned, damaged, stolen, or missing packs of tickets. The reconciliation is reviewed by the lottery's internal auditors, who report to the state-appointed lottery commission.

3/06/2019 05:48 - Cynthia B.

ok I can see that.

3/06/2019 05:41 - nc s.

How is your Lottery ODDS correct when you pull every game before they end. You stated you base the odds on so called printed tickets that you print all at once but never sell anywhere near the amount of tickets printed. Why not save resources and print less tickets since you have never sold any where near the tickets printed for any game. That's a lot of wasted ink,paper,electricity and man power for tickets you know you'll never sell. You've been doing this for a long time and continue these false tactics. Look at all the winners left on games you've pulled, recalculate and then correctly state the odds of winning. It's easy to do if you wanted to. Where's the Integrity?NC Lottery
Please see our reply above. Thank you!

3/06/2019 05:41 - Gregory P.

As far as I am concerned the odds to win the jackpot on a scratch-off is only accurate if you had every ticket in front of you to pick from. But since they are spread out throughout the state the odds are really much higher.

3/06/2019 03:15 - William G.

How about for those that buy entire ticket rolls? I understand your single ticket odds above but having bought many "rolls" of 30 tickets before for $10 and $20 games with odds of winning at roughly 1 in 3, I always have ended up with exactly 20 losers and 10 winners per roll. Not once has it been higher or lower so I am curious if the rolls themselves are set this way? Thanks!NC Lottery
The odds for a particular scratch-off game are for the entire printing run of tickets, not just within rolls. Each pack of ticket will have a unique mix of winning and non-winning tickets at a variety of prize levels.

3/06/2019 03:08 - Rick P.

Thanks for the information. However the odds of winning all always changing based on the number of tickets remaining and the number of prizes remaining. It would be nice if NCEL would update the odds weekly. Just an idea to make things more fun!

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