Is Bingo Better Odds Than The Lottery?

Bingo Odds vs Lottery OddsAs two of the ‘softer’ gambling games, bingo and the lottery are understandably compared with each other by players, and often attract a similar sort of crowd.

Now obviously a lot more people play the lottery than bingo, but we are talking about the people who love it and take it seriously, not John the joiner who grabs a ticket on his way home from work on a Friday evening if he remembers.

Both games have the plus points, and to some degree it is subjective which game is ‘better’, but when it comes to your odds of winning, well, there is a clear winner in that argument.

That said, it’s not all about having better odds, there are other things to consider such as how enjoyable the game is, the entertainment value, how much it is possible to win, and so on.

So while the lottery and bingo have very different odds of winning, that isn’t all that matters, and what makes one game better than the other will depend on who you are talking too.

We have our opinion on this of course, and you will not be surprised to find out which game we think is better (*cough*bingo*cough*), but we will present both sides fairly in this article.

First though to the question at hand; let’s look into the odds of winning the lottery vs the odds of winning at bingo.

Odds of Winning Bingo vs Odds of Winning the Lottery

Holding Bingo Lottery Tickets

The interesting thing here is that with both games, bingo and the lottery, your odds of winning depend on how many tickets have been bought for the game, and also how many of those tickets belong to you.

We wrote another article about the average number of calls it takes to get a full house in bingo. With a single ticket it was 77 calls for a 90-ball game, but with 50 tickets that number dropped to 62 calls, showing that the more people who play, the quicker a winner will be found on average.

It follows then that the owning more of those tickets will give you better odds of winning the game. However, it is the number of tickets you own relative to the overall number of tickets in the game that is important.

Owning 1 ticket in a 100 ticket game gives you a 1% chance of winning, but if you own 10 of those tickets your odds shoot up to 10%.

This is where the two games are miles apart, because the lottery sells anything between 15 million to 45 million tickets for each draw! Not even the biggest bingo halls in the world could hold enough bingo players to sell that many bingo tickets.

A bingo game with 500 players who all bought 100 tickets each would still only amount to 50,000 tickets sold – that’s just 0.33% of 15 million, and 0.11% of 45 million!

So the average number of bingo tickets in a game is miniscule compared to the average number of lottery tickets in a draw.

This also means that you can’t realistically buy enough extra lottery tickets to give yourself any sort of meaningful advantage in boosting your odds of winning, but with bingo, you can.

Let’s compare.

If we buy 10 tickets for a 50,000 ticket bingo game, and 10 tickets for a 30 million ticket lottery draw (30 million is halfway between 15 million and 45 million), here are our chances of winning:

  • Bingo – 1 in 5,000 or 0.02%
  • Lottery – 1 in 3,000,000 or 0.000033333333333333335%

If we start to slowly increase the number of tickets we buy for each game, here is what happens:

Tickets Bingo Chance Lottery Chance
50 0.1% 0.00016666666666666666%
100 0.2% 0.0003333333333333333%
500 1% 0.0016666666666666668%

So in a 50,000 ticket game of bingo, you would need to be playing 500 of them for a 1% chance of winning. Remember though, we have used an extremely busy bingo game here; your standard Thursday evening down at the local Mecca won’t have 50,000 tickets in it, so you could likely buy far fewer tickets in most games for a similar chance at winning.

To get a 1% chance of winning a 30 million ticket lottery, you would need to buy 300,000 tickets, and the standard lottery in the UK, the Lotto, is £2 per ticket. Got a spare £600k lying around? No, us neither.


Win Money ShoppingSo far, when we have been talking about winning we have been referring to winning the top prize in each game; so getting a full house in a game of bingo and getting all 6 numbers on a lottery ticket.

Of course, there are other prizes that can be won in both games, so your chances of winning something are higher than the figures given above, but does winning a free go on the lottery really do anything for our mood? It’s barely any better than winning your money back on a scratch card – and we’re not sure about you, but winning such a small amount is just annoying if you ask us.

With bingo, you will usually win more than that if you get a line or two, for example, and the game continues afterwards too so there is a lot more entertainment value to be had. Not to mention the little prizes the callers sometimes give away, like chocolates and other goodies.

With the lottery, once it’s over, it’s over.

That said, playing bingo doesn’t allow you to fantasise in the same way that playing the lottery does.

The most you are likely to win with bingo is £50,000 if you are very lucky in the National Game, whereas with the lottery, you can win the sort of money that could completely transform the way you live your life and create generational wealth.

If someone offered you £50k or a winning lottery ticket you would be bound to take the lottery ticket, right? But that’s not the choice we are making when we play these games, it’s about more than what we might win, although that is certainly a part of it.

We have written about why people play bingo in the past, and it’s not really about the amount they win, but the feeling of being a winner. The prize is the winning itself as much as any financial reward.

With the lottery, it’s all about the big money, there’s really no other reason to play.

Is Bingo a Better Game Than the Lottery?

Bingo Ticket and Dabber

What are we buying when we hand over our money in return for a bingo ticket or a lottery ticket?

Yes, in literal terms we are paying for the tickets, but actually, it’s much more than that – we are paying for an experience.

It’s not the same experience though, even though both games could potentially win us money.

With bingo we are paying for an extended session of fun, camaraderie, pleasant company, and mental stimulation; with the lottery we are paying for the right to dream, to go off into a fantasy for a few minutes and imagine what we would do with big money if it came our way.

In both cases we know the odds are against us, we know we will probably walk away poorer, but we are ok with that because we have enjoyed the experience we have bought.

Bingo costs more than the lottery, yet offers much smaller financial returns. It also takes more effort to play bingo and requires more of your time, but for bingo players, this is time they happily spend, because bingo is fun, the lottery isn’t really, not for long anyway.

When you think about it then, the price of admission for both games is directly related to the emotional experience you get from them, not the potential for financial reward.

Bingo costs a bit more and pays out a bit less, but it is an entire night out, a social occasion, a celebration or a team bonding session with the guys from work.

The lottery costs pocket change and could pay out millions, but it is merely a ticket bought on a whim then lost in a pair of jeans, a brief daydream in the car, and a solitary Google of last night’s numbers.

Bingo is a far far better overall experience than playing the lottery, it’s undeniable.

Both have their place though, and there is nothing to stop even bingo’s biggest fans spending a few quid on the lottery each week. Our expectations for the two games are totally different though.