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Could Playing the Lottery in Southern California Make You a Billionaire?

Southern California has been on a fairly extraordinary winning streak. The streak itself is small, but the numbers involved are big: billions-of-dollars big.

Over the last 12 months, three separate buyers of lottery tickets in California have each won more than $1 billion, with one of them winning a record-setting $2 billion.

Between the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries, nine jackpots in the United States have reached $1 billion or more since 2016. In four of those drawings, a winning ticket was sold in Southern California.

So what’s going on with all of the wins there?

First, let me explain what’s happening: The jackpots this year got so big because months went by without a winning combination for the top prize. Huge jackpots have become increasingly common in the multistate Mega Millions and Powerball lottery drawings because of changes to the games over the years and higher ticket prices.

This month, a winning ticket was sold at Midway Market & Liquor in Frazier Park, Calif., a town about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. In July, a lucky player bought a ticket worth $1.08 billion at Las Palmitas Mini Market in downtown Los Angeles. In 2016, lucky buyers in Chino Hills, Calif., less than 40 miles from Los Angeles, split $1.6 billion with winners in Tennessee and Florida.

The largest jackpot to date was a Powerball drawing won on Nov. 7, 2022. The ticket was sold in Altadena, Calif., to a man named Edwin Castro. Lottery officials have not announced who won the winning billion dollar tickets in July and October. Winners have a year to come forward, and lottery officials complete a vetting process before any announcement is made.

The wins have led people in online forums like Reddit and Quora, or in their Google searches, to ask: Is Southern California lucky?

“It’s a statistical coincidence,” said James Abdey, an associate professor of statistics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It’s purely due to chance.”

Millions of people play the lottery every week, Mr. Abdey said. At some point, there will be a winner, and that winner has to live somewhere. Predicting where the lottery will be won is impossible, he added, because lottery machines do not remember which numbers they pulled last time.

Three people winning such big prizes in roughly the same region in what seems to be a short time span, Mr. Abdey said, “is highly improbable, but not impossible.”

There’s no pattern (not really, anyway). There are no lucky numbers (mathematically speaking). There’s only dumb luck.

Of course, those who buy lottery tickets are not known to blindly stick to the laws of probability. This month people flocked to the Las Palmitas convenience store in downtown Los Angeles where a winning ticket had been sold in July.

Applying logic to playing the lottery is fruitless, Mr. Abdey said, but if you were to do so anyway, you may think about California being the most populous state in the United States, and the Los Angeles area being the most populous part of that state.

“California has more lottery players than any other state by sheer nature of our population,” said Carolyn Becker, a spokeswoman for California Lottery. People in California purchase roughly 13 percent of the total lottery ticket sales in the country, she said. But that doesn’t mean that buying a ticket in California will help your odds.

So, is there anything people can do to increase their luck in the lottery?

There isn’t, according to Mr. Abdey, the statistics professor. But he does have an important piece of advice: “If you want to win the lottery, the necessary condition is that you’ve got to buy a ticket.”

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