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How does Lotto work in South Africa?

Lotto is a popular national lottery game in South Africa operated by Ithuba, the country’s National Lottery operator. Lotto offers South Africans the chance to win huge jackpot prizes twice a week by simply matching 6 numbers from 1 to 52. The game has been running since 2000 and creates several millionaires each year. But how exactly does Lotto work?

How to Play Lotto

Playing Lotto is easy. You need to pick 6 numbers from 1 to 52 on a Lotto play slip. This can be done by choosing numbers yourself or using a QuickPick option that randomly generates the numbers for you. Each board costs R5 to play. You can play up to 10 boards at a time for a single Lotto draw.

Once you’ve chosen your 6 numbers, you take your completed play slip to an authorized Lotto retailer or play online/using the mobile app. This will issue you with a ticket containing your chosen numbers as well as a unique barcode. Lotto drawings take place every Wednesday and Saturday at 21:00.

The Lotto Draw

For each Lotto draw, 6 winning numbers and 1 bonus number are randomly drawn from a set of 52 balls. The 6 main numbers determine the jackpot winners for that draw. The bonus ball offers the chance to win smaller prizes.

The draw takes place using state-of-the-art ball draw machines and the whole process is overseen by independent auditors to ensure everything is fair. The draw is also streamed live on select TV channels so players can watch the winning numbers being picked.

Matching Numbers to Win Prizes

To win a Lotto prize you need to match some or all of your chosen numbers to those drawn. The prizes on offer are:

6 Correct Numbers (Jackpot)

Match all 6 numbers drawn to win the multimillion rand Lotto jackpot. You can choose how you want to receive your winnings – as a lump sum or in annual payments over 20 years.

5 Correct Numbers + Bonus Ball

Matching 5 main numbers plus the bonus ball wins the second prize tier, usually around R250,000 to R500,000.

5 Correct Numbers

Matching 5 of the main numbers scores the third prize category. This is usually between R8,500 – R15,000.

4 Correct Numbers

Picking 4 correct numbers wins around R1,000 – R1,500.

3 Correct Numbers + Bonus

Matching only 3 main numbers but also the bonus ball gives a prize of around R100.

3 Correct Numbers

Matching 3 main numbers wins a small prize of around R20.

2 Correct Numbers + Bonus

You can win your money back (R5) plus R10 by matching just 2 main numbers and the bonus ball.

1 Correct Number + Bonus

Matching only 1 main number and the bonus ball wins a Lucky Dip play for a future draw.

As you can see, the prize tiers decrease as less numbers are matched but you still have a chance to win even if you only match a couple of numbers. The Lotto Plus game offers bigger prizes for matching 5, 4 and 3 numbers.

Jackpot Rollovers

If no one wins the Lotto jackpot by matching all 6 numbers, the top prize rolls over to the next draw. This can result in gigantic jackpots worth R100 million or more if there are several successive rollovers. Lotto holds the record for the biggest jackpot payout in South African lottery history – over R153 million won in 2005!

Rollover draws generate tremendous excitement and ticket sales always surge as more players chase the dream of winning a massive jackpot. When the jackpot reaches record-breaking levels, the country goes Lotto crazy!

Odds of Winning

The odds of hitting the jackpot by matching all 6 numbers are 1 in 13,983,816. This makes Lotto South Africa’s game with the best odds of winning a multi-million rand top prize. The general odds of winning any prize are 1 in 22.

This table summarizes the odds of winning in Lotto:

Prize Level Odds of Winning
6 Correct Numbers 1 in 13,983,816
5 Correct Numbers + Bonus Ball 1 in 2,330,636
5 Correct Numbers 1 in 144,415
4 Correct Numbers 1 in 9,631
3 Correct Numbers + Bonus Ball 1 in 802
3 Correct Numbers 1 in 276
2 Correct Numbers + Bonus Ball 1 in 87
1 Correct Number + Bonus Ball 1 in 81

As you can see, while 6 correct numbers is highly unlikely, matching enough to win smaller prizes is much more achievable. Plus everyone has the same odds and chance to win.

Where Lotto Revenue Goes

Lotto ticket sales contribute significantly to the National Lottery’s distribution funds. These are then allocated to worthy causes across South Africa, such as:


Thousands of registered public benefit organizations doing vital work in communities rely on National Lottery funding.

Arts & Culture

Funds are awarded to support local arts, theaters, museums, galleries, heritage projects and more.


Money goes towards building sporting facilities and purchasing equipment to develop sports at grassroots to pro level.

Miscellaneous Purposes

Lottery money also supports miscellaneous good causes like environment, health, education and improving public recreational facilities.

In the 2020/2021 financial year alone, the National Lottery allocated over R2.7 billion towards such worthy initiatives! So when you play Lotto, you’re contributing to positive change in South Africa as the funds raised are reinvested to uplift communities.

Notable Lotto Jackpot Wins

Lotto has produced some of the biggest lottery winners not just in South Africa but the world. Here are some of the most memorable jackpot wins:

November 2003 – R40 million

A Capetonian man won one of the biggest jackpots ever seen at the time using numbers based on his wife’s birthdate.

July 2005 – R101 million

This sensational win by a young Pretoria man was the first time the Lotto jackpot had cracked R100 million.

August 2005 – R153 million

Just weeks later, South African lottery history was rewritten when 2 winners split an enormous R153 million jackpot. It remains the highest Lotto prize ever won.

November 2018 – R232 million

A lucky player from Cape Town scooped the highest ever Lotto jackpot payout by a single ticket holder. The life-changing R232 million win was celebrated nationwide.

These are just some of the landmark Lotto wins that captured the public’s imagination and demonstrated just how much the game can change lives in an instant. Who will be the next Lotto multimillionaire?

Tips for Winning Lotto

While Lotto ultimately comes down to chance, there are some tips players often follow in hopes of boosting their chances:

Stick to your personal lucky numbers

Many players only use sentimental numbers like birthdays, anniversaries and ages rather than random QuickPicks.

Avoid popular Lotto numbers

Try steering clear of number sequences or widely played numbers like 1, 7, 11, 23 etc as jackpots are less likely to be shared.

Balance your selection

Choose a mix of odd/even and high/low numbers to mix it up. Don’t pick only numbers under 31 for example.

Buy multiple tickets

Playing more number combinations gives you more chances to win, just don’t forget your budget limit!

Join a syndicate

Playing in a group pool allows you to afford more tickets to boost your odds. Just be sure to formalize agreements on sharing prizes.

Check your tickets!

So many major prizes go unclaimed as people forget to check their old tickets. Don’t let your numbers earn millions you miss out on!

While fun to try, there is no definitive way to guarantee a Lotto jackpot. At the end of the day, it’s most important to play responsibly and have fun dreaming about what you’d do with an unexpected multi-million rand windfall!

Lotto History & Changes

Some key events and changes in Lotto’s history:

March 2000

Lotto launches as South Africa’s first-ever national lottery game under operator Uthingo. Tickets cost R2 with jackpots starting at R1 million.

October 2002

Ticket prices increase to R3 per board.

March 2006

Uthingo’s operating license expires and the Gidani consortium takes over running the National Lottery.

October 2010

Ticket sales rise to R5 per board. Prizes also increase across all levels with a minimum jackpot of R10 million introduced.


Lotto introduces an extra ‘Plus’ draw on Wednesdays and Saturdays featuring bigger prizes for matching 5, 4 and 3 numbers. Entry is included with normal Lotto tickets.

June 2020

After years of declining ticket sales and other issues under Gidani, Ithuba takes over National Lottery operations. They aim to modernize games and reignite public interest.

October 2021

A 7th main number (‘bonus ball’) is added to boost prizes across more winning levels. Odds of winning any prize improve from 1 in 27 to 1 in 22.

Lotto vs PowerBall Differences

Both Lotto and PowerBall are popular National Lottery games, but there are some key differences:

Balls and Numbers

Lotto: Pick 6 numbers from 1 to 52. PowerBall: Pick 5 numbers from 1 to 50 plus 1 ‘PowerBall’ number from 1 to 20.

Draw Frequency

Lotto: Twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. PowerBall: Every Tuesday and Friday.


Lotto jackpots tend to be larger (up to R232 million) versus PowerBall’s top wins around R150 million.


Lotto has better odds to win the jackpot (1 in 13,983,816) compared to PowerBall (1 in 42,375,200).

Prize Tiers

Lotto has more ways to win smaller prizes. With Lotto Plus, there are prizes for matching 5, 4 and 3 numbers. PowerBall only pays out for matching 5 numbers or 5 + PowerBall.

Ticket Cost

Playing both games on a single ticket costs R14 versus R10 for a single game. Lotto remains SA’s most affordable jackpot game per play.

Both games have created big winners over the years. Lotto holds the record for the largest ever payout (R232 million). PowerBall has better odds to win its big prizes but lower prizes overall versus Lotto. Playing both covers more draws and possibilities to win!

Is Lotto Worth Playing?

There is constant debate around whether Lotto is actually worth playing compared to the near-impossible odds of hitting the jackpot. Here are some perspectives to consider:


– Only R5 per entry makes Lotto affordable entertainment.
– Millionaire-making jackpot payouts from a small outlay.
– Wins are tax-free.
– You can win smaller prizes with just 1 or 2 correct numbers.
– Drawings are regulated and payouts guaranteed.
– Contributes funding towards good causes.
– Jackpots can roll over to amazing amounts.
– Dreams of becoming rich can be fun!


– Statistical chances to win the jackpot are extremely low.
– Have to share the jackpot if there are multiple winners.
– Annuity or lump sum choice can diminish advertised jackpots.
– Taxes can eat into large lump sum payouts.
– Ongoing spending on tickets can accumulate to significant amounts over time.
– Money could be better invested or put into savings.

Final Verdict

Playing Lotto is a personal choice. For many, buying the occasional ticket when jackpots are high is an acceptable compromise for a tiny chance to radically transform their lives. The entertainment value can make a R5 ticket worthwhile. But playing excessively or well beyond one’s means is ill-advised. Moderation and perspective are key – don’t spend more than you can afford to lose!


Lotto offers South Africans an accessible and regulated chance to play for multi-millionaire status twice a week. While the jackpot odds are extremely long, lesser prizes are more achievable and can still be life-changing. Responsible play may be worth it for the possibilities, however slim. Just don’t go overboard or spend rent money in pursuit of hitting the big one! But for many, the regular chance to dream big makes Lotto an enduring national obsession.