Who Actually Plays (and Wins) The Lottery?


Written by Don't Panic
12 Thursday 12th May 2016

"It'll never happen to me."

That's what most of us tell ourselves regarding major lottery prizes. And yet, so many of us play anyway. This is largely because we humans tend to fall prey to our own faulty psychology. Business Insider took an in-depth look at what makes people buy lottery tickets or scratch cards when they know full well they're exceedingly unlikely to win, and three psychological reasons came up. One is that we succumb to the "near miss" effect, buying more tickets after landing just a few numbers on a previous ticket because we feel like we almost had it. Another is that we simply can't conceive of odds as high as those of winning the lottery and the final reason is that we're tricked into thinking a win is possible because winners make the news.

It's also sometimes suggested that the real value in buying lottery tickets is a sort of mental entertainment. It's just fun to imagine what you might do with a lucrative jackpot. You might think of what car you'd buy, where you'd like a vacation home, or what your first purchase would be. It's just imagination, but for the small fee a single lottery ticket costs it can make for some amusement that otherwise doesn't seem as real.

However, on the other hand there is some added incentive against playing lotteries aside from the fact that the odds are always astronomical. For instance, many of the stories we do see about major jackpot winners tend to be packed with misfortune and even tragedy! Case in point, Mirror's news section recently posted a story about recent Euromillions winner Gillian Bayford (who took home a £148 million prize) and suggested that her family had been torn up. There are no specific instances of fallout from the lottery win noted, but it certainly seems as if she divorced her husband and lost touch with her family within a year or so of her grand prize. And this is just one of many such tales.

But psychology, positives and negatives aside, who actually plays the lottery these days? And who actually wins? Lottoland, an online platform for Euromillions players, actually cited some studies not long ago about the demographics of lottery players, and the findings were pretty interesting. Here are a few of the highlights:


- 70% of people over 18 in the UK participate in the lottery on a regular basis.

- 1/6 of people age 18-25 do the lottery at least once a month.

- 1/3 of people age 25-34 do the lottery at least once a month.

- 1/2 of people over 35 do the lottery at least once a month.

- The Queen herself has played the lottery.


Those are some pretty surprising numbers, namely because they indicate more people are playing lotteries than most might guess. The demographic findings were evidently pretty varied, though it was noted that upper and middle class citizens tend to be less likely to play (with the Queen being an exception of course).

As for who actually wins the lottery most frequently, from a demographic standpoint, we simply can't say. According to the survey numbers 85% of lottery winners never reveal their identity, which makes it impossible to map out any trends among winners. However, going by probability it seems likely that lower class citizens over 35 are the likeliest to win, if for no other reason than that they're the likeliest to play.

But the main takeaway is that a whole lot of people are playing lottery games, for a whole host of reasons. And while most are logically telling themselves they'll likely never win, there's always that nagging truth when you look down at a ticket: it does happen to someone.


Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at panic@dontpaniconline.com and we will respond asap.