When I was in my 20s, travel meant partying, meeting other backpackers, and seeing as many beautiful places (especially beaches) as I could. Sure, I loved trying good food and sightseeing too, but they were always secondary pursuits that I somewhat took for granted.
Fast-forward to now, when I’m in my mid-30s, and meeting locals and trying different types of cuisine are among the things I look forward to most before departing on my trips. Don’t get me wrong, I still love discovering new beaches and attending the occasional all-night party, but they’re definitely not as high on my list of priorities as they once were.
However, there’s one thing that I’ve always included in my trips that doesn’t seem all that common among other travellers. Yet it goes back to my very first backpacking trip through Europe: playing the local lotteries.
I generally only play the main national lottery games in every country I visit once. I like to see how they work, and there’s something thrilling about it, even though most of the time I don’t win anything worth mentioning (or anything at all).
But over the course of all my journeys I’ve won a few decent prizes—including one secondary EuroMillions prize in early 2005 that covered not only my roundtrip airfare but also a good chunk of my trip.
So, on a recent half-business/half-leisure trip to the Philippines, I decided to look into what the country had to offer. And, I’m happy to report, I was pleasantly surprised.
Unlike many countries that offer just one or two national lotteries, the Philippines has an impressive five national lottery games. And not only that, but they each hold three draws per week and have some of the cheapest lottery tickets of any draws on the planet.
Normally a single line costs PHP 24 (about USD $0.48), but due to COVID they’ve been temporarily discounted to PHP 20 (about USD $0.40). That’s a heck of a deal, and it allows you to buy more tickets and greatly increase your odds.
While five national games and three weekly draws might seem excessive to some, it actually makes a lot of sense when you consider how much Filipinos love to gamble. A leisure activity that dates back to the 1500s, gambling appears in many forms within the country: from cockfighting to sports to card games and much more.
As for the lotteries, they are organized by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (commonly known as the PCSO), and the oldest of the five games dates back to 1995 and the youngest to just 2015.
Ranked in order from biggest jackpots and toughest odds to smallest jackpots and best odds, these are the games that are available:
1. Ultra Lotto 6/58
How to Play: Pick six numbers from a range of 1 to 58. Match all six to win the jackpot.
Jackpot Odds: 1 in 40,475,358
Biggest Jackpot Ever: PHP 1.18 billion (USD 23.3 million)
2. Grand Lotto 6/55
How to Play: Pick six numbers from a range of 1 to 55. Match all six to win the jackpot.
Jackpot Odds: 1 in 28,989,675
Biggest Jackpot Ever: PHP 741.2 million (USD 14.6 million)
3. Super Lotto 6/49
How to Play: Pick six numbers from a range of 1 to 49. Match all six to win the jackpot.
Jackpot Odds: 1 in 13,983,816
Biggest Jackpot Ever: PHP 265 million (USD 5.2 million)
4. Mega Lotto 6/45
How to Play: Pick six numbers from a range of 1 to 45. Match all six to win the jackpot.
Jackpot Odds: 1 in 8,145,060
Biggest Jackpot Ever: PHP 181.7 million (USD 3.6 million)
5. Lotto 6/42
How to Play: Pick six numbers from a range of 1 to 42. Match all six to win the jackpot.
Jackpot Odds: 1 in 5,245,786
Biggest Jackpot Ever: PHP 112 million (USD 2.2 million)
No matter what game you choose to play, you certainly won’t be out much money. On my trip, I decided to get a ticket for each one and while I didn’t win anything, it added a bit of extra excitement to an already exciting trip. As it always does.
If lottery tourism isn’t something you’ve considered before, give it a try wherever you’re going next. Just make sure the country’s lotto organization will pay out prizes to foreigners (most do, but it’s always good to confirm), and enjoy the extra fun it can provide.
Because, after all, you just never know how lucky you might get.