Lottery Machines: How Lotteries Work

Our role is to choose our lottery numbers, buy our lottery tickets and then wait for the results. But there is a whole lot more to a lottery draw than meets the eye. The lottery draws themselves are all about suspense, glitz and glamour, but what we see on-screen is preceded by a lot of methodical preparation.

What happens behind the scenes at a lottery draw, everything from the draw machines, to the balls and the tight security procedures in place, ensures that each and every lottery draw is fair and random. Let’s go behind-the-scenes to understand how lotteries work and the process that gives each of us a fair and equal chance of winning one of the world's biggest jackpots.

Behind The Scenes Look at a Lottery Draw

Different Types of Lottery Draw Machines

The lottery draw machine is the crux of the lottery draw. It is imperative for lotteries to invest in equipment that will ensure a completely random outcome. This is why lottery draw machines can cost as much as $55,000 each! Draw machines come in different shapes and sizes, but the mechanical machines are generally used in the lottery world. There are two types of mechanical lottery machines – gravity-pick and air-mix machines.

Gravity Pick Machine

Gravity Pick Lottery Machine

This is the most commonly used lottery machine, as it is seen as being the most fair and secure. It is used in major lotteries such as Mega Millions, Powerball, Canada Lotto 649,and EuroMillions.

This type of machine has a drum with spinning paddles/arms that rotate in opposite directions. The balls, which are usually made of rubber, are dropped into the spinning chamber from a set of transparent tubes above the machine. The paddles mix the balls and then the requisite number of balls pass out of the bottom of the drum, one at a time. They travel through a transparent tube and into a visible tray, so that viewers can see the balls at all times. There is an optical sensor that tracks each ball that passes through, allowing only the right number of balls to be released.

Air-Mix Machine

Air-Mix Lotto Machine

The air-mix lottery draw machine chamber is filled with numbered ping-pong balls. These balls are whirled around the drum by jets of air from a fan that is located at the bottom of the drum. Each of these balls has been measured to ensure that they are all equal in weight and size. The winning balls shoot up and out of the chamber through a tube, ending up in a display tray. This type of machine is mainly for ‘pick 3’ or ‘pick 4’ games, and is also used in some big lotteries, including the EuroJackpot lotto and the Italian SuperEnalotto lottery.

Now that we have an understanding of the equipment that is used in a typical lottery draw, we can explore the lottery draw process of three of the world’s biggest lotteries:

Mega Security for Mega Millions

Mega Millions draws are conducted at WSB-TV studio, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia. The draws happen every Tuesday and Friday at 23:00 EST.

Security is paramount for each and every Mega Millions draw. The lottery machines and the ball sets are stored in a secure location, and can be accessed only by approved draw officials. The lotto machines are chosen at random and the selection is verified by external auditors. This is to confirm, according to the chosen machine and balls, that each number has the same odds of being drawn.

Mega Millions also uses two separate machines per draw, each with its own ball set. One is used to select the main numbers and the other is to select the Mega Ball. Both machines and ball sets are tested to ensure 100% randomness of the draw. Even after the draw, more tests are conducted as a part of the verification procedure. All of the tests are administered by two Mega Millions draw officials as well as one person from a third-party auditor. As if all this is not enough in terms of security, each step in the pre-draw process is videotaped. From start to finish, the entire pre-draw procedure takes about 3 hours.

The Power Behind a U.S. Powerball Lottery Draw

Behind the Scenes Look at a Lottery Draw

U.S. Powerball has two lottery ball machines per draw – one for the main numbers and one to draw the Power Ball. All of the machines used in a Powerball draw are gravity-pick machines, even though they resemble air-mix machines in appearance.

The balls begin their journey in a series of clear tubes above the drum. When the game begins, the tubes release the balls into the chamber. The machines have spinning paddles at the bottom of the drum, which spin the balls randomly around the chamber. Random balls will then shoot up through a tube that is in the middle of the drum. These balls will travel outside and around the drum through a transparent tube, landing up in a clearly visible display area.

There are two different ball sets used in each Powerball lottery draw – white balls for the main drum and red balls for the Power Ball drum. Each ball is made of solid rubber and weighs 80g. The cost per ball is $60 and each ball will last for approximately 2-3 years. The balls used are weighed regularly to ensure that there is negligible weight difference.

In just a matter of minutes, the lucky numbers are drawn, with viewers unaware of all the careful preparation that has just occurred.

Watch the Behind the Scenes of the Powerball Drawings video here!

An Inside Look at the UK National Lottery

The UK Lotto is operated by the Camelot Group and is regulated by the National Lottery Commission.

Just as in the two American multi-state lotteries, the UK National Lottery draws are monitored by an independent auditor, who verifies that each and every draw is conducted according to procedure and that each draw is completely random.

The ‘Draw Manager’, who is an employee of Camelot, is responsible for the start of the draw. This person ensures that the draw runs smoothly. Also, members of the National Lottery Compliance team are present at a minimum of one Wednesday, one Friday and one Saturday draw each quarter.

The machines and ball sets are sealed and stored in a secure area after each draw. Access to the equipment is extremely restricted. Before each and every draw, these seals are examined to ensure that they have not been opened. The National Measurement Office tests each ball set and draw machine on a regular basis.

The draw machine and ball set are selected randomly before the draw. The names of the options are placed in envelopes, which are shuffled, and then an independent third-party selects an envelope. The UK National Lottery has 13 draw machines in operation, so, for each draw, one of these machines will be randomly selected.

Each of the machines has its own name. The first six names are from the legend of King Arthur, drawing from the name of the UK National Lottery Operator, Camelot. These machines are Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Vyvyan, and Galahad. The other seven draw machines are named after gemstones, each of which has its own unique characteristics and symbolism.

Playing the Lottery Is Fun, Operating a Lottery Draw Is Serious Business!

It would be interesting to know which machines are used for the calculation of lottery jackpots!

A lottery draw may be over in a matter of minutes, but it takes a lot of pre-draw preparation to ensure that each and every draw is 100% fair and random. Lottery officials take every step to make sure that your numbers have just as much chance as being selected as any other number.

All you need to do is choose your numbers, wait to see if you have a winning ticket, and then decide what to do with your winnings! This is especially the case when you buy your lottery tickets online, because we take care of all the nitty-gritties for you - we stand in line to purchase your actual lottery ticket for you, scan it into your online account, send you the results and win notifications, and deposit your winnings into your account. Let theLotter and the lottery officials do all the work to help you become a lottery success story and have fun while doing it!