MANILA, Philippines, October 3 ------ What are the odds of winning the lottery?
According to a statistician of the University of the Philippines (UP), it’s a one-in-28,989,675 chance, considering the six-number combinations in the 6/55 Grand Lotto draw of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Yet recently, the PCSO made history — or rather became qualified to be cited by Ripley’s, the American franchise dealing in events so unusual that people doubt the claims — after 433 bettors beat the odds to win and share the P236-million Grand Lotto jackpot. Each winner from that draw will get P545,245.24, which is subject to a final tax of 20 percent.
Furthermore, the winning combination became quite unique for its arithmetic progression consisting of multiples of nine: 9-18-27-36-45-54. Netizens openly wondered about the draw, considering the seeming astronomical odds of that combination. “Isn’t it suspicious? Maybe they are relatives, or same company, or same political circle, or by the same person or groups of persons. In cahoots with PCSO, with advance knowledge of winning combination?” said one tweet. Another recalled a 2018 lottery in the United States in which all 11 winners of the $543-million jackpot happened to be coworkers, although that circumstance turned out to be just pure luck. Other tweets called for an investigation into the results.
Peter Julian Cayton, associate professor of UP’s School of Statistics, said in an interview that “over the past 20 years, we had only two or three winners, but the general pattern of these numbers did not have a structure as compared to the most recent multiples of 9 in a result.” He said that combination, like other seemingly ridiculous combinations like 05-15-25-35-45-55, 01-02-03-04-05-06, “rarely happens, but it can.” He also explained that 433 people choosing 09-18-27-36-45-54 was still likely, as there were “many people who choose with a fixed set of numbers, and many would base it on a pattern to easily memorize them. And often, it’s based on a personal level.” “A feature of being human is to do things beyond the rules of nature and finding pattern and order in chaos,” he added.
Cayton said it was difficult to compute the odds of 433 winning “because here, subjectivity on how we make choices affects how many may win.” “Without additional information, 433 winners in a jackpot is not impossible but it is a very, very small likelihood that even with 43 people winning, the chance is… smaller than the smallest length possible in physics in meters, known as Planck Length,” he said, referring to the measurement named after physicist Max Planck.
The PCSO moved to allay the public’s suspicions, saying there was no human intervention in drawing the lotto winning combination. Its general manager Mel Robles said that the big number of winners was due to the popularity of the number 9 and the consistent placing of bets on this figure’s multiples. “We have found nothing wrong, in fact, it’s a natural occurrence that many favor a certain number that wins,” Robles said. PCSO Assistant General Manager Arnel Casas said a pattern was also established in the playing habits of bettors consistent with yesterday’s results, as he noted that 264 bets were placed on the same winning combination on Sept. 26. He added that a record 331 bettors won the second prize worth P100,000 for picking five of the six winning numbers.
Among the winners, the PCSO said 151 were from Metro Manila, 34 from Cavite, 22 from Rizal, 21 from Bulacan and Laguna, 14 from Batangas and Cebu, 13 from Pampanga, 11 from Pangasinan, and the rest scattered across the country. Out of the 433 winners, 12 people won via the Lucky Pick, which is a computer-generated number that gives a random combination. The actual draws are conducted through a live telecast via PTV 4 and a livestream on the PCSO social media pages.
A Commission on Audit representative, PCSO representative, and a civilian are also present during the live draw. Before the broadcast, the balls are weighed for proper documentation. The lottery agency ruled out holding internal investigations as they insisted that there were no anomalies or inconsistencies in their procedures. “PCSO assures every Filipino whether you are playing lotto or not that the conduct and result of every draw is very transparent and of utmost integrity,” it said in a statement.
But some lawmakers are not convinced. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said he would file a resolution to look into the rather unusual occurrence. The government, he said, must protect the credibility of state-sanctioned lotteries, casinos, and similar gambling activities operated by the PCSO and other gaming regulators. “The result is really puzzling… Statistically speaking, this is a very rare event,” Pimentel said. “Supposed to be, your chances of winning is one in millions. So that means it’s really difficult to win. To say that 433 people won, there is something suspicious,” he said in a radio interview. “We should take advantage of this opportunity to investigate. Our purpose is to ensure the integrity of our games,” he said.
Fellow minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she would support Pimentel’s move, saying that it would be better to “rule out any doubts in the public mind that the results have been manipulated.” “While we recognize that people tend to bet in patterns, we also want to make sure the system is secure, free from glitches and trustworthy,” Hontiveros told reporters. Robles said his agency welcomes any proceedings to validate the transparency of the lottery. “We’re open. We’ll be presenting the same data,” he said.