Amazing Lottery Facts You Should Know in 2023

By Dunja Radonic
Last Updated: February 28, 2023
lottery facts Despite popular belief, the state lottery is not a modern invention. It played a crucial role in ancient civilizations like the Roman Empire and China’s Han dynasty. Back then, it had the sole purpose of financing government projects. Nowadays, the landscape has changed, and most individuals buy lottery tickets for their unlikely personal gain. Still, some outstanding modern projects were funded by state lotteries. Read on to discover more lottery facts!

Top 10 Lottery Facts Everyone Should Know in 2023

  • The first state lottery dates back to somewhere between 201 and 187 BCE in China.
  • Queen Elizabeth I held the first official British lottery, 450 years ago.
  • French writer Voltaire found a loophole in the French national lottery and won millions.
  • Powerball boasts the largest jackpot ever—a whopping $2.04 billion.
  • The National Lottery finances the British Film Institute.
  • The chance of scoring a winning ticket is nearly 1 in 300 million. 
  • You are more likely to be struck by lightning than win the lottery. 
  • Benevolence caused many winners to go bankrupt.
  • Waitress Phyllis Penzo got a $3 million winning ticket as a tip.
  • Jerry and Marge Selbee cracked a game called Winfall and won millions.

General Facts About the Lottery

Powerball boasts the largest jackpot evera whopping $2.04 billion.

As unlikely as it may be, some people still manage to beat these seemingly insurmountable odds. The previous record ($1.59 billion dollars) was broken quite recently on Nov 7, 2022. It’s almost unimaginable that a $2 ticket can change someone’s life so drastically. Want to try your luck? Find out more about the world’s biggest lotteries here. (Powerball)

The chance of scoring a winning ticket is nearly 1 in 300 million.

We’re all painfully aware that the chance of winning the lottery is extremely slim, but just how slim, you might ask? Let's find out more about the odds of winning the lottery. According to data from 2022, Powerball lottery facts suggest that the odds are 1 in 292.5 million, whereas the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 302.6 million! (Fool)

You are more likely to be struck by lightning than win the lottery.

Even with this in mind, millions of people around the globe believe that they’re the next in line for the prize. When it comes to the chances of winning the lottery, facts remind us just how unlikely that is to happen: with a chance of 1 in 74,817,414, you are more likely to die from an asteroid strike. Coming in second place, with the likelihood of 1 in 1 in 1,222,000, comes being struck by lightning. Incredibly low odds, but still larger than hitting the jackpot. (National Weather Service)

The National Lottery finances the British Film Institute.

It could be said that one of the greatest and most interesting facts about the lottery flies under the radar. Movies like The Last King of Scotland, The King’s Speech, and Billy Elliot were all filmed owing to donations from the British National Lottery. These films raked in 14 Oscars and 32 BAFTAs collectively.  (National Lottery)

Some numbers appear more often than others.

Since 2017, there have been approximately 543 Mega Millions drawings, and some surprisingly common lottery numbers popped up more often than others. Mega Millions facts indicate that numbers 14 and 17 appeared 53 and 51 times respectively, which is way above the average of 39 appearances.  (USA Today)

Historical Facts About The Lottery

The first state lottery dates back to Ancient China and is called keno.

As the story goes, the lottery tickets helped pay for government initiatives. The funds were raised by a type of lottery called “Keno”. Considering the time period, these earnings were likely used to fund the building of the Great Wall. (Britannica)

Queen Elizabeth I organized the first official British lottery.

In 1567, the Queen was faced with two options—levy a new tax on her citizens or hold a lottery. One interesting fact about the lottery is that Her Royal Majesty decided to go with the latter and establish England’s first State Lottery. The money was used for large public projects and for modernizing the royal navy. (Smithsonian Magazine)

The Virginia Company of London held lotteries to support the settlement of Jamestown.

Lottery facts confirm that games of chance have been popular in America since its colonial days. However, the Virginia Company of London was created by King James I hoping to fund new colonies. Not only did the company work to attract settlers, but it established the settlement of Jamestown and funded its ventures through public lotteries. (Encyclopedia Virginia)

There was a nationwide lottery prohibition during the 1800s in the US.

Gambling, and particularly lotteries, came under fire during the 1800s and were outlawed in the majority of states due to scandals, and moral and religious objections. This, unsurprisingly, sparked a burgeoning market for illicit lotteries that lasted until Puerto Rico's first modern government-run lottery was established in 1934. (Atlas Obscura)

Crazy Lottery Winners Stories

Waitress Phyllis Penzo got a $3 million winning ticket as a tip.

One of the most interesting lottery winner facts is that about Phyllis Penzo. Instead of giving her cash, one of the patrons promised to split a lotto ticket with her. Some time passed, and look and behold, she received a mind-blowing phone call. It was the patron notifying her that she was $3 million richer. (People)

Jerry and Marge Selbee cracked a game called Winfall and won millions.

The saying “it’s just a numbers game” is considered a gambler’s fallacy, however, Jerry and Marge Selbee beg to differ. Jerry, an excellent mathematician, researched lottery facts and figures and cracked a game called Winfall. Using his brilliant strategy, the couple won millions of dollars. In 2022, the movie “Jerry and Marge go large” was filmed in honor of their fascinating life story. (NY Post)

Oksana Zaharov bought the wrong lottery ticket and won $5 million.

Instead of giving her the $1 dollar ticket, the shop clerk mistakenly sold her a $10 dollar one. Being a non-confrontational person, she just went ahead and bought it. It seems that being nice sometimes pays off, as this has to be one of the most unbelievable facts about lottery winners. She ended up winning $5 million dollars due to a clerical error. (USA Today)

French writer, Voltaire, successfully identified a loophole in the French national lottery.

Topping most lists of fun facts about the lottery is the one about Voltaire. In 1729, he and his mathematician friend found a way to cheat the system. They pocketed around 7.5 million francs—an equivalent to tens of millions of dollars in modern currency. To add insult to injury, the loophole was quite obvious. In layman’s terms—the prizes were greater than the price of all the tickets combined. (Smithsonian Magazine)

An anonymous EuroMillions winner gave most of his winnings to an environmental charity.

One of the most interesting facts about lottery winners is that they often give their prize to charity. One such man was an anonymous winner of the French lottery, who gave $217 million to charity. He was nicknamed Guy and is a retiree living in the South of France. It was the second-largest jackpot in France. He said it was his dream to help people and the planet, and he did. Bravo, Guy! (NewsWeek)

The Lottery Curse—Fact or Fiction?

Jack Whittaker won $317 million, and it ruined his life.

Jack, the owner of West Virginia contracting company, was a wealthy man even before receiving a huge Powerball windfall. Due to state laws, his incredible luck was made public, and that’s when the trouble began, as facts about those who have won the lottery often point out. Both his daughter and granddaughter died and his wife left him, and he said the lottery was a curse for him. (ABC News)

William Post III lost $16.2 million to an unending shopping spree.

William Post was a little more than a drifter before he won a $16.2 million jackpot from the Pennsylvania lottery. It’s time to delve into negative facts about the lottery since William’s life turned completely upside down. He lost almost all his money, had six unsuccessful marriages, his brother hired a hitman to kill him, and in the end, he died alone and penniless.  (Washington Post)

Abraham Shakespeare was killed for his money.

One of the most disturbing facts about the lottery concerns Abraham Shakespeare. Abraham won $40 million from the Florida Lottery in 2006, and that’s when the trouble began. Despite being generous with his money, it was never enough, and people wanted more. In the end, he was murdered by his supposed friend Dee Dee Moore. (Live About)

The Takeaway

The lottery has a long, exciting history. It has been used by rulers to fund state projects since ancient times, from the Great Wall of China to colonial America. When it comes to lottery winners, the stories go from heartwarming to devastating, so if you ever win, be careful as it isn’t always a dream. We hope you enjoyed these exciting lottery facts. Good luck, and may your next ticket be the lucky one!