Takarakuji: What’s chance got to do with it?

November 30th, 2009 by Philip Brasor & Masako Tsubuku

An hour to wait and think of how you'll spend all that money

An hour to wait and think of how you’ll spend all that money

Last week sales for this year’s Nenmatsu Jumbo Takarakuji (Year-end Jumbo Lottery) started, and as usual there have been long lines every day in front of the Nishi Ginza Chance Center at the Sukiyabashi Crossing. These people are waiting, often for more than an hour, to buy as many ¥300 lottery tickets as they can afford in order to increase their chances of winning a share of the (tax free!) ¥300 million in prize money available: more specifically, 70 ¥200 million prizes, 140 ¥50 million prizes, 700 ¥5 million prizes and so on.

Chance is in the eye of the beholder. As gambling goes, lotteries offer pretty awful odds. Only pachinko is worse, which is ironic given that lottery and pachinko are the only legal forms of gambling in Japan outside of racing sports.

Nevertheless, people think they have a better chance if they buy their tickets at the Nishi Ginza Chance Center, simply because a larger percentage of past winners have purchased their tickets there. Apparently, the ticket office with the most first and second prize Jumbo winners is the one in front of Osaka Station in the Osaka Ekimae #4 Building. Nishi Ginza is second and the ticket office in front of Nagoya Station is third.

Is there a pattern here? You don’t need to be an Einstein to figure that the more tickets one particular lottery office sells, the more likely it will be that that particular office will sell a winning ticket. Nishi Ginza has more winners than any office except Osaka because it sells a lot of tickets. The more tickets it sells, the greater will be the probability that it sells a winner, and thus more tickets are sold the next time because people think it sells more winning tickets. The odds, however, remain the same, no matter where you purchase your ticket.

Lottery ticket sales end Dec. 22.

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