Foul Play Called on a Powerball Lottery that Saw a Record Number of Winners

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In one of the more ironic occurrences to catch the news beats at the end of 2020, there has been an outcry over several people calling the correct numbers on a national lottery draw. Most of the time, foul play is called when millions of people play, and not a single winner is found. This time, however, it’s because so many people followed what is effectively instinct when it comes to picking lottery numbers.
The incident in question took place on 1 December in South Africa, with 21 players laying claim to a national lottery jackpot. That is a large number of winners for any lottery to see, but what made it so controversial was the fact that a consecutive sequence of numbers was drawn for the five regular balls and the final Powerball. Here’s why people were up in arms, but also why it doesn’t mean that there was any lottery tampering.

What happened in South Africa’s Powerball draw?

It’s the draw that marked new records for the Ithuba National Lottery, while also drawing them a lot of criticism from disappointed winners and losers of the draw. The SA Powerball draw was for a whopping R114 million (£5.8 million) jackpot, but on the night, a widely called but unprecedented sequence of numbers rolled in. In the end, the winning numbers were 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, with the Powerball of 10.

There were 20 people with tickets matching the first five numbers, and another who also landed a bonus from the Powerball call. As such, they split the pot to get R5,688,468.21 each, which is £288,219.70. So, while people would say that it’s rigged due to the perceived impossibility of consecutive numbers, the fact is that 21 people put down at least the initial draw of five sequential balls.

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Consecutive numbers were just as likely as any other draw

The simple fact is that, while the draw did mark the Ithuba National Lotteries highest number of jackpot winners and first sequential draw, the outcome was just as likely as any other combination. Also available to bet on online, the SA Powerball winning numbers are drawn twice weekly, with people able to wager on the outcome of the independent draws as an alternative. In the draws themselves, five numbers roll out from a batch of 50 balls, and another “PowerBall” pick comes from 20 numbers.

As detailed by Business Insider, the statistical likelihood of anyone having the winning numbers in the 50-ball lottery is close to one in 14 million, with consecutive draws being just as possible as any other draw. This randomness is why people play the lottery, and yet, many people use a similar method of number picking. So, when the consecutive draw occurs, many people have to split the jackpot.

Lottery websites around the world will always list ‘avoid picking consecutive numbers’ as sound advice. It’s not because doing so hinders your chances of winning – those remain the same – it’s because you won’t win as much if you copy what everyone else is doing. In fact, in the UK, it was found that around 10,000 people play the numbers one through six in each draw.

Naturally, the result of the South African Powerball was controversial due to the jackpot needing to be split and the occurrence being rarely seen – but often backed. However, there isn’t any controversy in the method and statistics behind such a draw occurring.

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