Lotteries have been around for centuries. There's evidence that the ancient Chinese, ancient Romans and ancient Egyptians all had some kind of game. People love to take chances, and they love the idea of becoming an instant millionaire sitting on a pile of cold, hard cash.
Every country has its own legal gambling games including lotto, drawings, bingo and number picks. Here are some fascinating facts about lotteries around the world.
Europe's Lotteries Are Big, Multiplayer Affairs
There are big lotteries with big prizes in America, but it's hard to top the massive, multiplayer jackpots of some European lotteries.
Italy has its famous SuperEnaLotto, which is a simple game that pays off hugely if you hit it. Each player only has to pick six numbers from a group of 90. Does that sound easy? It might, but the odds are high on ever hitting just those six. That's why the payoffs on the SuperEnaLotto can be mind-boggling. The ease of playing and low entry price has made it attractive to people across Italy and Europe.
Spain's Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad (Extraordinary Christmas Game) is the biggest game in the world in terms of payout. It's so big it goes by the nickname “El Gordo,” meaning the Fat One.
In 2012, it paid out the equivalent of $941.8 million. The game involves a series of tickets with preprinted, five-digit numbers. The government issues each set of numbers several times in a number of runs called series. As a result, the winning prize gets divided among all the holders of the winning numbers in each series.
In Spain, El Gordo is more than just a drawing. It's held on December 22 every year, and it's considered a national pastime that families and groups of friends participate in together. You won't mind sharing your winnings when you see how huge they are. In 2016, El Gordo paid over $2 billion to its lucky winners.
Powerball Has the Highest Starting Jackpot
It's no wonder the Powerball is a favorite for most players. Its high starting jackpot of $40 million makes it attractive to millions of gamblers despite the low odds of winning. In 2016, it hit a record-breaking payout of over $1 billion.
The French Lottery Is Tax Free and Gives You Two Shots to Win
France has had a national game, called the Loto, since 1505. The modern version of their game gives you two chances to win. Each slip doubles as a raffle entry with the chance to win 20,0000 Euros or about $40,000.
Best of all, prize winnings on the Loto are never taxed.
Speaking of France, one of the earliest people to win the big game there was the famed writer Voltaire. He and a group of friends figured out a way to rig the game.
Voltaire enjoyed winnings in the millions that allowed him to quit working and devote himself to writing, philosophy and other pursuits that don't generally pay that well. We're pretty sure the French closed those loopholes, so don't try to repeat his trick.
Powerball Was Once a Power Cookie
In 2005, 110 people ended up splitting the winning Powerball payoff of $20 million. Eighty-nine people got $100,000 each and 21 players got $500,000 each. This was nicknamed the “Fortune Cookie Powerball.”
Powerball remains the most popular game in the USA. In total, people in America spend more than $70 million on games of chance including drawings, quick picks, bingo and lotto.
The UK Game Has Funded Famous Films
The UK's national game has raised money for many important cultural events. During the Elizabethan period, it raised money for libraries and theaters. In modern times, it has funded the production of movies like The King's Speech and The Last King of Scotland.
Maryland's Keno Game Pays Off Every Three Minutes
If you don't feel like waiting around for a big drawing, try a Keno game. Maryland is one of a handful of states that offer continuous Keno games with quick payoffs. Others are Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.
It Could Happen to You and It Did
In the movie It Could Happen to You, a cop promises half his game winnings as a tip to a diner waitress. This movie was based on a true story.
It happened again in Oregon, when a bar customer left a winning lotto ticket as a tip for a bartender. It was worth more than $17,000.
Germany Only Has One Lottery
Unlike most countries that have several smaller lotteries, gambling games and jackpots in addition to their big national one, Germany has only one state-run game. It draws every Wednesday and Saturday night.
EuroMillions Is Bigger Than Mega Millions
The enormous EuroMillions game has twice-weekly drawings and involves players from all over Europe including the UK, Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. Mega Millions is no slouch, either, as it's the second biggest USA game after Powerball. It creates a new millionaire almost every week.
Japan's Lottery Has No Age Limits
The Japanese Year End Jumbo, called Jumo Takarakuji, is the biggest game in Asia. It's held only once a year with a New Year's Eve drawing. In one recent drawing, there were 68 winners who received 400 million yen each, which is the equivalent of almost $4 million.
By law, half the money collected for every game must go to organizations that serve the greater good.
Japan's gambling games have no age limit. Even children can buy a ticket. Best of all, you don't pay any taxes on your winnings. Unfortunately, you can only take part if you live in Japan.
You Can Buy Into Some of These
Can you buy a chance at these foreign games in Asia, Europe or Australia? It depends on the country. For instance, you can play Oz Lotto, the national game of Australia, online. A recent Oz Lotto payout was $5 million. For other countries, check gambling websites that specialize in these games.
Read the fine print to make sure you can collect your winnings as a foreigner. You might have to travel in person to collect them.
Some countries don't allow anyone to take part unless they're in the country. Before you fork over your cash, be sure it's legal.