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Saskatoon lottery winning streak might appear rare, but ‘rare events happen’: probability expert

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon lottery winning streak might appear rare, but ‘rare events happen’: probability expert' Saskatoon lottery winning streak might appear rare, but ‘rare events happen’: probability expert
Multiple lottery winners in the Saskatoon area might be exciting, but one expert says “when you’re looking for rare events, you will find them.” – Nov 12, 2021

Saskatoon might be a lucky city, but not because of its recent streak of lottery winners, according to an expert in mathematics and statistics.

There have been at least four newly-minted millionaires in the last month as a result of big wins in the Saskatoon area. It began with a $55 million Lotto Max win in October — the second-largest jackpot in Saskatchewan history.

Read more: Saskatchewan lottery winner nets 2nd-largest windfall in province’s history

“I did not expect that to be something that happened to me,” winner Matthew Poppel said in a Sask Lotteries statement last month.

The winning streak continued last week with a $2 million Western 6/49 ticket draw. On Monday, just outside the city, a man won a $1.5 million Smoke Signals jackpot at Dakota Dunes Casino. Then, a Lotto 6/49 ticket drawn Wednesday was confirmed to be bought in Saskatoon.

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Michael Kozdron, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of Regina, said the events might seem rare, but they’re really not that uncommon.

“A lot of it is the population distribution and rare events happen,” Kozdron said. “The thing is, when you’re looking for rare events, you will find them.”

Looking at the distribution of lottery winners, Kozdron cited Ontario cities like Toronto, Mississauga and London seeing similar streaks at various points.

Read more: $2M ticket Saskatoon’s 2nd lottery win in just over 2 weeks

The real value is the joy of playing the game and treating the lottery like the game that it is, he said.

“If you think of it as entertainment, how do you want to spend your entertainment dollar? That’s one thing,” Kozdron said.

“As an investment strategy, it’s probably not a wise way to fund your pension.”

Instead, he proposed that people put a toonie in a jar every day and then cash out after 30 days.

“You get that little thrill of winning at the end of the month,” he said with a laugh.

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Read more: Couple wins $2.6M lottery, son declared cancer-free all in 3-day span

The author of this story was once told by his high school teacher that the lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math. But even the probability expert, known as a probabilist, admitted to buying lottery tickets himself — strictly for fun.

“I certainly like the thrill of seeing the numbers come up on the screen,” Kozdron said.

“Every now and then, I get that little twinge of excitement when I hit three of six or three of seven in the 6/49.”

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