The influence of mathematics on gambling

The influence of mathematics on gambling

For most of us, lottery, sports betting, bingo, casino games and all other types of gambling are just something to pass our time with and we hardly think about how these games really work. However, it’s true that every game out there has a very complex mathematical background that ensures players can win enough to keep playing while ensuring the house always wins.

Speilwürfel | Image: PIRO4D,, CC0 Creative Commons

So, how can the casino or a lottery be sure that they will make money in the long run? Let’s analyze some of the most popular gambling games out there to find out what kind of math is doing their magic in the background.


The influence of mathematics on gambling

Roulette is one of the most popular casino games in land-based casinos and at online casino sites around the world. The game works in a very simple way, with a ball spinning through the wheel with 37 or 38 slots, each marked with a number. In a European roulette wheel, the slots are marked from 0 to 36, while American roulette also includes a 00 field.

So, how can a casino be sure to make money playing? Well, the payout you get when you hit on a correct number is 35: 1, for the 36 numbered slots. However, this is not the last remaining number that ensures that the house always plays with a 2.70% advantage. The addition of another slot machine in American roulette increases this house edge to 5.26%.

In the long run, the house will always win, but in a single session, any player can get lucky, hit a good winning streak, and win back the bet placed several times, which is where the fascination of the game comes from.

Bingo and lottery

Some games of chance that can seem the most innocent to the onlooker actually offer the worst odds of winning. Most bingo games allow the house to keep an advantage of over 10%, while many lotteries around the world keep 50% advantage in the game, making it a terrible game to buy a ticket.

What does a house edge in a lottery mean? Now in simple terms, for every $100 bought in tickets, a lottery will only pay $50 or $60, rarely over $70. While the lottery odds seem bad, for most gamblers this is actually the best kind of gamble as it offers a chance to win one massive amount and you literally never have to play again. While some games like slots may offer better odds in the long run, you will probably end up losing more in these games than you would in the lottery.