Lottery Betting vs. Buying Tickets Online: Pros and Cons

lottery betting
Image credit: Roy Luck

The differences between buying actual lottery tickets online and simply betting on the lottery can be major or minor depending what type of lottery betting sites we’re talking about and how those compare to the websites where you do actually purchase tickets. It can cause some confusion, so today’s post is designed to explain the different ways to play the lottery online and then discuss some of the pros and cons of each.

The first thing to understand is there are three different ways to play the lottery online. One option is to purchase physical tickets online. The other is to place fixed-odds bets that do not involve real tickets at all. The third option is to place wagers with websites that do not purchase physical tickets but still guarantee payouts equal to the size of the actual jackpot.

Read on for the full scoop on all three types of lotto betting sites.

Buying Lottery Tickets Online

These are websites that sell actual lottery tickets over the internet. You pay the website, the website sends someone to go buy a real ticket and then that ticket is scanned and e-mailed to you for proof. If you win, the lottery site collects the winnings on your behalf and pays you the full amount.

Lottery sites go to great lengths to offer peace of mind for their customers. They provide e-mail receipts of your purchase and scan copies of the physical ticket to establish a clear paper trail that proves you are indeed the legal owner of the ticket.


Websites that sell real lottery tickets online are easy to understand. You are purchasing actual lottery tickets and can follow the drawing yourself to see exactly how much you win. It’s just like buying a ticket in real life except you don’t have to leave the house and can buy tickets in lotteries held all around the world.

You also know that you will be paid the full prize amount, whether it’s a smaller prize or the grand jackpot. There are no worries that the lottery site will be unable to pay, because they do not have to come up with the funds to pay you. Your winnings are provided by the lottery commission itself, which is usually backed by the government of its home country.

Reputable lottery sites also do not collect a commission on the prize amount. Lottery sites of this type make their money by tacking on a small fee to the cost of the ticket, not by withholding a percentage of your winnings. However, you should check the fine print to ensure this is the case at any individual lottery ticket website. We know that our recommended lottery sites do not charge fees, but we cannot speak for other websites that may or may not be as trustworthy.


One disadvantage is you may be required to book a plane ticket to claim large prizes in person directly from the lottery commission. Some lottery sites are able to claim some prizes on your behalf and then transfer the money to you via bank transfer or cheque, but the rules vary from site to site and country to country.

Another disadvantage is purchasing real tickets subjects you to the terrible odds offered by national lotteries around the world. In almost every case, a country’s national lottery returns less than 50% of income from ticket sales back to players in the form of prize money. To put that in gambling terms, the house advantage is huge.

Betting on Lottery Drawings

The other category of lottery sites consists of those that do not involve real tickets at any point. Instead, you place bets with the betting site on the outcome of the next drawing. There are two different types of sites that fall under this category, and each is explained below.

Fixed-Odds Lottery Betting

Fixed-odds lottery betting is played in a manner similar to keno. In this form of lottery betting, you bet on the number of picks you get right and are paid if you guess that many correct. For example, you might place a bet at lottery sites on getting two of the Irish Lottery numbers correct. You would pick two numbers and then if the next drawing includes those two numbers, you would receive a payout of 60/1 on your money.

You are most likely to find fixed-odds lottery wagers on offer at sports betting sites such as William Hill. I do not know of any standalone websites that offer this form of fixed-odds lottery betting.


Fixed-odds lottery bets tell you in advance how much you stand to win and you can adjust your bet accordingly. The payout odds are fixed in place, but you can bet a bigger amount for a bigger payout. You can also change how many numbers you wish to select in order to increase or decrease the odds of winning and the payout odds. In short, you have more control.

Also, fixed-odds lottery wagers usually offer a better rate-of-return to the player than just playing in the lottery. The house advantage is smaller and that means you’re getting a better deal from a mathematical perspective.


There is just one disadvantage, but it is a big one: you cannot win a huge jackpot prize by taking fixed odds wagers. When you play in a regular lottery, you can win millions of pounds just for spending a few pounds. The maximum payout in a real-world payout is much, much higher than it is for fixed-odds betting.

Betting for Jackpot Payouts

Finally, there are some websites that act as a sort of combination of the two types described so far. Some websites allow you to bet on the lottery and receive the full jackpot payout, but no real tickets are purchased. The lottery site is responsible for paying you your winnings; the lottery commission is not involved at all.

These websites can afford to cover even the biggest jackpots by purchasing insurance policies from specialized insurers in the event that a customer hits a major jackpot. If you place a bet and win a massive jackpot, your lottery site’s insurance policy will be activated and then the insurance company will deliver the money to the lottery site, and the lottery site will forward that money on to you.

Reputable lottery sites of this type do not keep a commission on the winnings. They pay you the full jackpot amount just as if you had purchased a real ticket and won. Whatever the lottery commission lists as the real jackpot is what you’re paid as a customer if you hit the jackpot. Smaller wins are treated in the same manner – whatever the lottery pays for matching a few numbers is what you’re paid if you hit that many numbers.


The number one advantage here is you still get paid the full amount even though no physical tickets are purchased. If you hit a big jackpot, you will be paid just as if you were the real-world ticket holder.

Additionally, getting paid is easier. You do not have to contact a lottery commission headquartered in a foreign nation or travel to get your winnings. The betting site itself issues the winnings.


This form of lottery betting requires a greater deal of trust because no physical tickets are purchased. If you are unfortunate enough to play at a scam lottery site that refuses to pay, the lottery commission will not step in to help you because you do not hold a winning ticket. Similar problems would arise if your lottery site ran into financial trouble or failed to keep its insurance policy up to date. It is vital that you only play with reputable lottery sites in all cases, but especially so with this type.

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