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Bingo vs the Lottery

Many people who like to play bingo also like to play the lottery (and vice versa) since both consist of betting on numbers.

The relationship between bingo and lotteries

In both bingo and the lottery, you choose numbers and pay then wait for the balls to be drawn to see if your numbers come up.  The key difference is that in bingo there is always a winner as balls continue to be drawn until someone calls bingo whereas in the lottery a set number of balls are drawn and there is only a winner if someone has a direct match.

The more players there are in a game of bingo, the more like the lottery it will feel.  As the number of cards in play goes up, the chance each card has of winning goes down, but the prize value goes up.  A networked game with tens of thousands of players will feel very like the lottery as you have a very small chance of winning a very substantial amount.   Such games are quite a selling point on many bingo sites, so clearly a great many bingo players enjoy that lottery feeling at least some of the time.

Some bingo sites are now tapping into this by offering lottery betting as a sideline.  This is NOT the same as buying a lottery ticket.

How does lottery betting differ from direct play?

When you bet, no ticket is actually bought for the lottery in question.  Instead you are placing a bet on which numbers will win, and in the event that you win it is the site that pays out.  Some sites pay out whatever the lottery itself pays out for the same numbers (and carry insurance against a big win).  Others allow you to place a range of fixed odds bets – for example, if you bet on one number you might get 6/1 on it appearing in the draw – and in that case, what you win will be based on what you bet and the quoted odds and have no direct relation to the lottery prizes.

Why bet on a lottery instead of playing direct?

Lottery betting sites give you information about and access to lotteries worldwide with one wallet you can use to pay for them all (and often for bingo, slots or sportsbook betting as well).  There may also be bonus offers and special features, such as the ability to block anyone else from choosing the same numbers (on a site which pays out the same as the lottery does) or the ability to place combination bets (on a fixed odds site).

The big minus point

If you buy a ticket for the UK Lotto and don’t win, much of the profit (around 25% of the ticket price in the year ending 31st March 2014) goes to support good causes.  Assuming that you could place a bet on it instead of actually buying a ticket, if you didn’t win the profit would go to the bookie instead of the good causes.  Until a year or two ago, several of the big UK bookies used to offer bets of this kind, but this is no longer the case and guidance from the Gambling Commission suggests that gambling sites with a UK licence are actually prohibited from offering any bets on anything connected with UK Lotto.  Instead, bets are offered on a selection of worldwide lotteries that players would otherwise be unable to enter – such as the 49s, a daily draw which is part of the Irish Lottery.  To buy a ticket for the 49s you must be a resident of the Republic of Ireland, so the only way a UK player can participate is via a lottery bet – and therefore no money is being diverted away from good causes.

The Bingo and Lotteries category has a list of bingo sites that also offer lottery betting.