ST Scroll Back on Toto Hongbao Draw: We’re more likely to be squashed by vending machine than to win lottery?

We stay hopeful though it’s easier to be a victim of a lightning strike than to strike lottery

People in a line to buy tickets for the Toto Hongbao Draw at Block 301 Ubi Ave 1 on March 1.
People in a line to buy tickets for the Toto Hongbao Draw at Block 301 Ubi Ave 1 on March 1.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

You’re more likely to be crushed in a vending machine incident than to win the lottery, at least, in the United States. You hear such odds whenever a lottery is around the corner.

In Singapore, on Feb 27 and Feb 28, the odds of that happening inched higher. 

An event involving vending machines that dispensed a $50 note in exchange for $3 drew such big crowds of people pushing their luck and shoving one another that the police got involved.

Before the event at Raffles Place was cut short, some lucky people inserted $3 into the machines and got a $50 note back - no strings attached. 

A hand was attached, though.

The vending machine was actually a box with a man inside who handed out the $50 bills.

The marketing stunt was to promote telecommunications firm Circles.Life’s “Unlimited Data on Demand” service, which is available for $3 per day on top of a base plan.

An event at Raffles Place involving a vending machine that dispensed a $50 note in exchange for $3 drew such a big crowd that the police got involved. PHOTO: STOMP

The vending machine in the marketing stunt by telecommunications firm Circles.Life was actually a box with a man inside who handed out the $50 bills. PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/3DOLLARBALLER

Other places in Singapore had lots of folk pushing their luck but, not, we hope, shoving one another. They were in long lines for the $12m Toto Hongbao draw on March 2. 

“I ended up winning $10, so I’ve been buying tickets for the hongbao draw every year since.” - Ms Hazel Kang, who was queueing at a Commonwealth outlet, said she first bought tickets for the hongbao draw three years ago.

A Straits Times interactive graphic looking back on past winning numbers and more. 

It is only human to cling to hope while doing “research” in the winning numbers and “lucky” outlets in previous draws.

Read on for the odds - and the odd hopes almost everyone has - of winning the lottery.


The odds of winning a Toto jackpot are heavily stacked against you. According to a New Paper report, some “unusual” things are more likely to happen to you than striking Toto.

Striking Toto with a $1 ordinary bet...
One in 14 million less likely to happen than:

Dying from a bee sting
One in 6 million

Dying from a shark attack
One in 3.7 million

Getting struck by lightning
One in 775,000

Having quadruplets
One in 729,000

Being in a plane crash
One in 500,000

In Chongqing, Mr Wang Chengzhou, 49,  is not deterred by the odds. He has been living under a bridge for 10 years trying to figure out the formula behind winning lottery numbers.

Sichuan University maths professor Zhou De told the Chengdu Commercial Daily that it is “almost impossible” to predict winning lottery numbers in advance. He said: “Lottery numbers are randomly generated.”

This view is echoed by a statistician from the National University of Singapore, Associate Professor Chua Tin Chiu, who said the Toto draw gives equal chance to all numbers and combinations, so there is no pattern, “favourite” number or combination. 

“Every draw is independent and a fresh start. Past draws cannot determine what numbers will come out next. It’s like flipping a coin. Assuming it’s a fair coin, previous results of heads and tails will not determine the next outcome.” - Associate Professor Chua Tin Chiu.

“The numbers have no memory. It’s not like numbers say, ‘I haven’t come out in a while, maybe I’ll go out today’, so you can’t choose numbers this way.” - Prof Chua.


It becomes a problem when people cling hopelessly to gambling to the point of being addicted.

“When you’re in the room, you feel no horror, fear or remorse. You just keep betting, hoping to recover your losses. It’s only when you walk out of the place that it hits you and you end up crying.” - Madam Loh (not her real name), a jackpot addict who ended up with a $200,000 debt and she had to sell her flat. These motivated her to join the self-exclusion list and stop gambling.

Here’s what you can do to keep an eye on yourself and others if you think a problem is emerging.

On concerns about Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club starting online gambling sites, the Government is keeping an eye on it.

Mrs Josephine Teo, Second Minister for Home Affairs revealed in Parliament on Feb 28, in reply to a question from Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, that there has not been a surge in bets placed with Singapore Pools and Singapore Turf Club after they were allowed to operate online gambling sites. 

She said most of the punters who placed bets online appear not to be first-time gamblers.

Mr Perera had asked about the number of new and current gamblers on sites operated by the local lottery operators.

30 per cent 
Percentage of Singapore Pools’ remote account holders who have previously held telephone betting accounts.

80 per cent
Percentage of Singapore Turf Club’s remote account holders who have previously held telephone betting accounts.

Over 95 per cent
Percentage of those who had previously not held telephone betting accounts indicating they had placed bets with the operators in the preceding 12 months.


For gamblers who don’t enjoy the “boring” act of putting money in a savings account, how about a savings account that’s like a lottery you won’t lose?


In the US, a prize-linked savings account works like a traditional bank savings account with one key difference. Instead of paying out interest to depositors, prize-linked accounts pool the interest that they would normally pay out and instead pay large sums to a select few “winners”. 

It's sort of like a lottery, but unlike one in that even if you don’t win, you still have your principal. It’s about harnessing the type of feeling that you get when you play the lottery to get people to save. Listen to this podcast to learn more about the idea.

A statistician said there’s an equal chance of winning with all numbers and combinations in the Toto draw, so there is no pattern, "favourite" number or combination. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG


“Before the winner begins making plans to buy an expensive yacht or a mansion, I would encourage him or her to take a moment to process what winning the prize means.” - Mr Charlie McIntyre, executive director of the New Hampshire Lottery. The winner, he said, should talk to a lawyer and meet with a financial professional, and “think about what you want to do with the money” before actually claiming the prize.

“I’m only 20, but I hope to use it to pursue a variety of passions, help my family and do some good for humanity.” - Winner of Mega Millions US$450 million (S$595 million) lottery Shane Missler.