CHICAGO — In a game where players rarely win once, the idea of lightning striking the same spot twice seems improbable.
Nevertheless, Scott Anetsberger, of the Chicago suburb of Lombard, Ill., received a check Tuesday for hitting the $1 million jackpot in the Merry Millionaire scratch-off game, repeating a feat he pulled off about nine years ago on the same game, according to Illinois Lottery officials.
What are the odds? First, a math lesson.
Playing the lottery is an independent event, meaning the probability of success is the same each time you participate, according to Martin Buntinas, professor of math and statistics at Loyola University Chicago. For example, the odds of rolling a certain number on a die are always 1 in 6. Previous results do not affect the occurrence or recurrence of a particular outcome.
The probability of winning one of the three $1 million prizes in Merry Millionaire is not posted on the Illinois Lottery website, but the odds of winning anything in the game are about 1 in 3. So, to figure the odds of repeating a particular result, Buntinas said, you square the probability.
In this case, the odds of playing twice and winning something twice are about 1 in 9. But, remember, those aren’t all jackpots.
“Playing the lottery is a worse investment than playing in a casino,” Buntinas said.
Anetsberger isn’t the first player to double up on $1 million wins. Kimberly Pleticha, of Villa Park, Ill., won $1 million twice in the instant Cash Jackpot game, in August 2010, then six months later.
Anetsberger could not be reached for comment Wednesday but told lottery officials he planned to use the winnings to pay bills and the college tuition for his two younger children. He bought his second winning ticket at J&P Food in Villa Park.
And, lest you think playing lottery games more often increases your chance of success, Buntinas urges caution.
“It increases your chance of winning,” he said, “but it also increases your chance of coming out in the hole.”