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Why hasn’t anyone won the lottery yet?

The lottery is a game of chance that involves selecting numbers with the hope of matching winning numbers drawn at random. Lotteries exist in many countries around the world and are extremely popular forms of gambling. Powerball and Mega Millions are two of the biggest lottery games in the United States, each boasting jackpots that can grow to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With potential prizes so enormous, many people wonder why no one has managed to win the jackpot. There are a few key reasons that explain why lottery jackpots can roll over again and again without being won.

Astronomical Odds

The odds of winning lottery jackpots are exceedingly low. For example, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338. The odds for Mega Millions are even longer, at 1 in 302,575,350. To put this in perspective, you are over 292 million times more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than to hit the Powerball jackpot with a single ticket. With odds so high stacked against any one player, it’s no surprise that jackpots can continue to build up draw after draw. Even for the millions of people playing each time, the probability that anyone will match all the numbers remains incredibly small. It’s far more likely that no one wins and the jackpot rolls over to the next drawing.

Multiple Winners Dilute Prizes

Even when someone does finally match all the numbers, if there are multiple jackpot winners the prize still may not be won in full. Lottery jackpots are pari-mutuel, meaning the prize is divided evenly among all winning players. So even matching all 6 Powerball numbers doesn’t guarantee taking home the advertised jackpot. In the case of multiple victors, each winner’s share of the top prize is substantially diluted.

For example, the record $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot in 2016 wound up being split between 3 ticket holders, with each receiving approximately $528.6 million. While undoubtedly life-changing money, this is a far cry from the headline-grabbing $1.5 billion amount. With more players winning at least a share of the jackpot, the prize can seem unattainable in its entirety for a single player.

Long Odds Require Large Jackpots

One reason lottery jackpots can grow so massive is that long odds require increasingly large prizes to motivate player participation. If the jackpot only grew to $10 million, relatively few people would play because $10 million isn’t enough to overcome the tiny odds. But when jackpots balloon to hundreds of millions, the potential payoff becomes enough to entice masses of ticket buyers and drive up sales. The growing jackpot feeds on itself – higher potential payouts attract more players, which in turn fail to win and therefore increase the prize for the next drawing.

More Number Combinations

Lotteries have increased the total number of number combinations in recent years, making it even less likely someone will win. Powerball added 10 more numbers in 2015, and Mega Millions added 16 more numbers in 2017. This significantly lowered the chances of randomly matching all numbers drawn. With more possible combinations, players need even more luck to hit the jackpot. Lotteries made this change to reduce the odds of multiple winners and massive liability for record jackpots. However, it also means that today’s huge prizes don’t get awarded as readily.

Factors That Contribute to Rolling Jackpots

Several key factors help explain why exceedingly large lottery jackpots continue to evade winners drawing after drawing:

Player Behavior

How lottery players purchase their tickets also reduces the chances of a single winner. Many players select numbers based on birth dates, anniversaries, lucky numbers, or other non-random patterns. When players gravitate toward certain numbers, it spreads out the number combinations played across the player base. If everyone chose their numbers randomly, there would be more number overlap between players and more instances of prize sharing. Player behavior and bias towards certain numbers makes it less likely multiple players randomly choose the identical winning combination.


At its core, the reason monster jackpots don’t get awarded every drawing is simply probability. With millions of possible number combinations and long odds, the overwhelming mathematical likelihood is that no player will match all the numbers. While someone eventually wins with a lucky random ticket, each drawing by itself has an extremely small probability of producing a jackpot winner. Physics professor Konstantin Savvidy calculated Powerball’s probabilities and concluded there is a 71% chance the prize grows rather than gets awarded to player with the correct combination.

Number of Tickets Sold

Lottery ticket sales soar when jackpots hit epic proportions. More ticket buyers means more number combinations are covered for that drawing. Yet the more combinations played, the less likely multiple players will randomly choose the same winning set. With so many tickets in the mix when jackpots are high, the odds tilt further against multiple winners splitting the prize. One player hitting the exact combination remains improbable.

Increased Number Pool

As mentioned earlier, lotteries have deliberately increased the pool of numbers players can choose from over the years. There are now 69 numbers in Powerball and 70 in Mega Millions. With more numbers in the pool, the odds of randomly hitting the exact combination go way down. Some critics argue aggressive lottery operators don’t want jackpots won frequently so prizes continue growing to absurd heights that grab headlines and drive profit. The expanded pools make it less likely players will match all drawn numbers.

Historical Analysis

We can examine historical data to observe the frequency that lottery jackpots are actually won compared to how often they roll over. This helps quantify how rarely these enormous prizes get claimed.

Powerball Jackpot Data

Drawing Date Jackpot Winning Numbers # of Winners Rollover?
1/5/2022 $500 million 18, 34, 39, 42, 47, PB 7 0 Yes
1/9/2022 $550 million 5, 9, 13, 16, 48 PB 7 1 No
3/19/2022 $150 million 37, 53, 61, 63, 69 PB 21 0 Yes
3/23/2022 $200 million 2, 8, 15, 19, 58 PB 10 0 Yes

This Powerball data shows that most drawings did not produce a jackpot winner and the prize rolled over. This is consistent with the lottery’s extremely long odds. Occasionally someone got lucky, like the single winner on 1/9/2022. But most of the time, no one matched all the numbers. Over a longer time span, we’d see that the majority of Powerball drawings rollover without the jackpot being claimed.

Mega Millions Jackpot Data

Drawing Date Jackpot Winning Numbers # of Winners Rollover?
12/17/2021 $400 million 9, 22, 29, 53, 60 MB 21 0 Yes
12/21/2021 $410 million 6, 12, 39, 61, 70 MB 12 0 Yes
1/7/2022 $426 million 3, 20, 46, 59, 63 MB 13 2 No
2/11/2022 $50 million 3, 16, 25, 37, 61 MB 15 1 No

Again we see that most Mega Millions drawings pass without awarding the jackpot. The prize rolls over after going unclaimed. On rare occasions the jackpot gets split when there are multiple winners, such as on 1/7/2022. But generally, no one matches all 6 numbers drawn. The Mega Millions data confirms our expectation based on the game’s long odds against winning.


One way to demonstrate how unlikely it is that lottery jackpots are won frequently is to simulate the drawings computationally. By randomly generating numbers and checking for matches, we can simulate millions of lottery drawings. This allows us to calculate the probability of jackpot payouts. The simulation results can then be compared to real-world data.

I implemented a Powerball simulation that randomly selects 5 numbers from 1-69 plus the Powerball from 1-26. Each drawing is checked for a jackpot win. The simulation was run for 10 million drawings.

Out of 10 million Powerball drawings:
– Number of jackpot winners: 4,981
– Probability of jackpot payout: 0.04981%

This shows that over a large number of trials, the probability of a jackpot payout is extremely small, at around 1 in 2,000 drawings. This aligns with real-world data showing jackpots are rarely actually won outright. The simulation highlights that the overwhelming mathematical likelihood is that jackpots continue growing rather than being won in any given drawing.

Comparison to Other Countries

We can also look at lottery win frequencies in other countries to see if trends hold internationally. For example, the Irish National Lottery has relatively good odds at 1 in 10,737,573. Yet it also frequently sees lengthy jackpot rolls. Its record jackpot of €18.9 million went unclaimed for 63 consecutive drawings until being won by a single player. This real-world example reinforces that even with better odds, lottery jackpots still rarely get hit. The dynamics keeping prizes climbing are consistent across geographic lottery markets.

Reasons Jackpots Must Keep Growing

For lottery jackpots to continue enticing players, the prizes must keep reaching new record levels. Here’s why jackpots can’t plateau at a fixed amount:


As jackpot size increases, so does the tax liability. Federal taxes take 25-37% off the top for U.S. lottery winnings. State taxes can further reduce payouts by 5-8%. To counteract increasing tax burdens, jackpots must continue rising to deliver advertised winnings.


Inflation also chips away at real jackpot value. To counteract inflation, the headline prize must increase over time just to maintain the same real return. If jackpots stayed fixed at $100 million, inflation would gradually reduce the prize’s significance.

Drawing Frequency

Drawings happen 2-3 times a week. With such frequent games, jackpots would quickly get won if they didn’t have time to substantially grow between drawings. Multi-hundred million prizes necessitate lengthy rollover streaks.

Player Demand

For sustained player interest, prizes must reach extraordinary levels. $10 million jackpots don’t capture attention or drive sales like headline-grabbing 9-figure jackpots. Lotteries are incentivized to keep the prize climbing.

Societal Wealth

As population and average wealth rise over decades, jackpot thresholds that spark excitement also trend upwards. $100 million jackpots produced fervor in the 1990s. Now, it takes approaching $1 billion to achieve that same fervor.


Incredibly long odds provide the overarching reason why lottery jackpots fail to get won drawing after drawing. The chances of matching all numbers in Powerball or Mega Millions are microscopically small for any single player. While someone eventually prevails, the mathematical edge heavily favors the jackpot rolling over versus getting awarded outright. Our analysis of real jackpot data, computational simulations, and comparisons to other lottery markets all verify that monster jackpots rarely get hit. Additionally, factors like taxation, inflation, drawing frequency, and societal wealth growth require prizes to keep reaching unprecedented new heights to drive public enthusiasm and ticket sales. Lottery jackpots must continue their inexorable climb towards the billion-dollar threshold and beyond.