Your Best Bet: Sports Betting vs Lottery


Whether you’re new to the world of online sport gambling, like a little flutter of excitement at the races, or religiously buy your lottery ticket each week, the same desire motivates us all: Money. The desire to win, and more precisely, to win big, is what makes the gambling world go round.

Whatever your preferred medium, there’s always a degree of risk involved. But is it all just a game of chance? Here we compare gambling on sports and playing the state lottery, to find out which platform will be your best bet.

First, Let’s Discuss Sports Betting

The world of online sports betting is huge, with a multitude of sportsbooks providing you with a plethora of betting options across a wide variety of sports, plus a number of casino games such as roulette.

There is a certain degree of luck involved with online gambling, but many other factors have their part to play in the results and the amounts you win (and lose).

What Are Your Chances?

It's time for legal sports betting

Say you want to bet on the final game of the NFL: a straight bet to pick the winner. You have two teams, so a 50:50 chance. (Let’s not worry about the bookmaker’s margins just yet.) Even in such a straightforward bet, you have so many things to take into consideration.

You’ll want to look into each team’s scoring history, the number of games played and won, who’s playing, their personal records, and injuries. Perhaps even outside factors such as weather conditions will also come into play. There is a large human factor in sports, and while that can’t always be predicted the rules of probability can still be applied.

Choosing a Top Sportsbook Is Important

Once you weigh up all the factors, you then have to choose the best online bookmaker to place your bet with. This choice will also affect how much money you take home.

Gambling is a business and bookmakers are out to make a profit. They do so through a few different means, the most important being the margin or vig. This margin may differ from site to site so it pays to shop around first before placing your bet. Check out our tips for choosing the best online sports betting site.

What About the Lottery?

It might not have the same variety in games or wagers, but the lottery is one of the most widely played moneymaking games in the States, with about 48% of the population participating on a regular basis.

As its popularity has increased, so has the number of ways to play.  In addition to the standard six ball draw Lotto, you now have the Little Lotto, Dailies, multi-state games, plus a wide range of instant scratch cards.

With the state lottery, it’s very much a case of “you’ve got to be in it to win it,” and the only way to be in it is to buy a ticket. Seems much simpler, right?

Yes and no: Even though you don’t have to wrap your head around confusing jargon and math, just picking the correct numbers is a much harder task than it seems.

What Are Your Odds of Winning?

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery
@MrAndyMatias / Flickr / CC BY-ND

When playing the lottery, you are betting against a machine, and there is no real reason why a number 5 is more likely to be drawn than a number 15. Of course, there are those who claim that you may be able to improve your odds with careful analysis, mathematics and logic.

There are even a number of ‘reality-based’ systems which you can use to try to predict the numbers.

You might get lucky every now and then, but really that’s what it will boil down to.  Sheer luck.  In fact, it is said that your odds of winning the lottery jackpot are one in 292 million. Not great, we have to say.

So, if you have more chance of being struck by lightning than winning the jackpot, why do so many people still play?

Your Best Option for an Equal Chance at Winning

Your Best Option for an Equal Chance at Winning
Mark Turnauckas / Flickr / CC BY

Everyone has the same chance of winning the lottery, no matter their betting experience or knowledge. Okay, so that chance may be small, but it’s still a chance! Many who play the lottery have no real interest in gambling at all and do it without really thinking about it.

It requires no real skill or specialist knowledge, so you could argue that this fact actually makes the lottery more equal for bettors, with no one having the upper hand. What makes the lottery so attractive is the view that somebody has to win and it could just as easily be you.

Can the same be said of online sports gambling?

Casual vs Sharp Bettors


Generally speaking, there are two kinds of bettors when it comes to sports and casino gambling, the casual bettor and the sharp. The sharp bettor has a long-term game plan and a number of strategies to give them an edge when it comes to picking winners. They have a more in-depth knowledge of how the system works, and how best to beat it.

Sharp bettors have the gravitas to move betting lines and change odds, so they aren’t always welcomed by bookmakers. Some online gambling sites have banned sharp bettors, and may even refuse payouts if they suspect you are a professional.

Online sports gambling is a pastime for many, but if you don’t put the time in to learn the lingo, or educate yourself in how to wager, then you’re likely to have an expensive and disappointing time.

Where the Money Goes

At the end of the day, bookmakers, the state lottery commissions and bettors are all in it for the same thing. Online betting websites gain profit from the bets made and lost from unlucky customers, much the same as the lottery does.

The difference is that the lottery commissions invest much of their profit back into society through various causes and charities, mostly to educational and veterans’ programs.

Many see participating in the state lotto as contributing to a worthy cause as well as a chance to win the big bucks. Others may take the view that it is a hidden tax on the poor, duping people into paying for something which should already be taken care of by the government and taxes already paid.

When It Pays Off

So, what’s the payoff?  Why chose one over the other?  The most attractive thing about the lottery for most people is the large cash sum.

The prize is huge in comparison to the effort made. You buy a ticket costing a couple of dollars, randomly pick some numbers, and by the time the powerball drops, you could be a multimillionaire. Depending how many numbers matched, you could still walk away with a nice payoff for very little effort.

Gambling games, however, require a little more consideration. How much you take home will depend on a number of factors, such as the bookmaker’s margin, the odds and how much you wager. If you win a particularly large sum, you might not be able to withdraw it all in one go, as most bookmakers will have a withdrawal limit.

You also have to consider how you’ll receive your cash from the online site: apart from bitcoin, all other payout methods involve a transfer fee. However, this is pretty standard for any withdrawal or transfer service, so isn’t such a shock. Something that is a little more surprising is when it comes to cashing in on that huge lottery windfall.

The Small Print

Perhaps you were seduced into buying a Powerball ticket in January 2016 when the jackpot hit a whopping $1.6 billion.  Now if that one extremely lucky person who had the winning ticket decided to take their winnings in a lump sum, they wouldn’t actually receive that jackpot total.

The jackpot sum will only be this high if taken as an annuity paid out over a 29 year period. Most people, however, opt for the lump sum – it’s just too inviting, but by doing, so they cut their total by a third. But we guess that doesn’t matter so much if you become a millionaire overnight!

Picking Your Own Best Bet

Which method of gambling is going to be your best bet?  Well, both online sports betting and the lottery operate in the field of luck.  However, it does seem that with a little time and effort you are more likely to tip the scales in your favor with an online sports bet.

You can build upon your successes and actually make a profession out of winning money, which, you have to admit, sounds good!

The lottery may be more for the fun-time gambler – one who still desires that life-changing sum of cash, but prefers to leave it up to the gods of fate. It might also be the better option for those who don’t like the risk factor so much.

If you play the lottery for 30 or 40 years and never win, it’s no big deal losing that money at the rate of a dollar or two a week –  as opposed to the risk of losing the equivalent in a second on a losing sports bet!

Make Your Lucky Bet

Choosing the platform that’s best for your bet depends on what you want to get out of it, and more importantly, what you want to put into it.

But you don’t have to leave everything to chance; to learn more about betting strategies, click here.

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Having worked in the marketing department at two online sports betting sites, John brings his love of sports to serve BigOnSports as chief writer. He will be researching and writing about the sports betting community to improve your experience as a sports bettor.