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Map of Central Illinois lottery winners

Are some locations "hot spots" for selling winning tickets?

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) -- Most of us have dreams of winning the lottery, but the odds aren't on our side.

Some people buy tickets at the same place every day and never get lucky. Yet others win on their first try. So we wanted to know whether the secret to getting rich is where you go to play.

People buy tickets at grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants all across the state. Through an open records request, we obtained a list of where more than 1,000 of the winning tickets were sold, and put them on a map. It turns out, the locations where people buy lucky tickets are not evenly distributed.    

We found some "hot spots" in Central Illinois. So does the place you play impact your chances of winning? We did some research.

"Can I get a number? Four. I'm gonna go for it."

Lisa Doss' retirement was already off to a good start. She left a career as a school bus driver which already made her feel like a million bucks.

"It was nice," she says. "I miss my kids."

But she never thought she'd be worth that much. Still, she made a habit of stopping by the EK Petro Mart in Windsor, wondering if this was the day her luck would change.

"Every day. I come in for something every day."

One day, something happened.

"I came in here and I bought two tickets," she recalled. "I scratched off the first one, and nothing. Scratched off the second one, I had a number. And then I kept scratching and it was zero, zero, zero. I just started shaking. I couldn't talk. I couldn't nothing. I spent 20 bucks and scratched off a million."

What are the odds of that? And who would have guessed the EK Petro Mart in Windsor, of all places?

Through a records request to the Illinois Lottery, we got a list of the places in Central Illinois where all winning tickets were sold in the last five years; both instant win scratch-offs and draw tickets.

We want to win big, so we only considered prizes of $5,000 or more. That turned up more than 1,200 hits. We plotted them on a map. The hot spots show which ticket-selling locations produced the most winners.

"Clearly, somebody does have to win eventually, and it'll happen," says UI Department of Statistics Chair Doug Simpson. "For the individual, it's very, very likely not going to be you winning."

Simpson asserts the probability of winning should still be the same, regardless of where you buy a ticket.

"The notion of trying to buy a whole lot of tickets so you have a better chance, that is a fairly foolish approach, because it's just guaranteeing you'll probably lose more money."

Simpson says that means, more than anything else, the "hot spots" are just "hot sellers."

"What it most likely means is that they sell a lot more tickets than other locations."

That being said, as a man of numbers, we asked his advice on the best way to play the lottery.

"Only play it for fun and entertainment," he says, "don't view it as an investment because the expected winnings are negative. In the long run, you can expect to lose money on average."

Back in Windsor, Doss' advice is a little different.

"You just gott to try," she says, "you got the money? Spend the money. Gamble. Try. If not, save it."

So which places had the most winning tickets over the last five years?

  1. Qik-n-EZ #55, 1101 Stevenson Drive, Springfield, 18 winners
  2. Shop 'n Save, on Dirksen, Springfield, 18 winners
  3. County Market, Rantoul, 15 winners

For more information, click here.

This is the list of winning tickets from November 2012 to November 2017 (Microsoft Excel Document):


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