How Are Lottery Tickets Distributed to Stores?

If you’ve ever played the lottery, you’ve probably wondered how the tickets are distributed. Indiana has had 39 winners since 1992. It seems like something is up, right?

Lottery tickets are distributed to stores sequentially, meaning that they’re sent out in the numerical order they were printed in. The top-paying lottery tickets that are placed within shipments are placed strategically but randomly. It’s entirely possible that stores won’t have any top prizes.

Continue reading to learn more about how lottery tickets are divided up and sent out, plus a few ways to improve your odds of winning.

Tickets Are Distributed Sequentially

Tickets Are Distributed Sequentially

Lottery tickets are shipped to stores in batches in the order they were printed off. Let’s say the first batch of tickets contains the first 1,000 tickets. The second batch has ticket numbers 1,001 through 2,000, and so on. The first batch is sent out, and then the second batch, and then the third. So, when you’re at the gas station buying tickets and you have ticket number 300, the second one you buy will be 301 because of how they’re packaged and shipped.

Sequential shipping could be a bit of a problem if you don’t like to buy your scratch-off tickets in a sequential bulk order. What if you want ticket numbers 300, 315, and 412, just to make it even more random? You’ll have to wait until more people buy tickets before you purchase another.

Not every single ticket is sent out all at once, however. Batches of tickets are usually sent out when a retailer sells out the supply they have. So, if the first round of batches are sent out to retailers and none of them contain a winning ticket, there’s a chance that the winning tickets won’t be purchased in the entire game. If a store runs out of tickets and another shipment is sent to them, they have a chance of selling the grand prize ticket.

Is it possible for nobody to win because the winning tickets weren’t sold?

Yes. Tickets have expiration dates printed on them and it’s quite possible that nobody will buy a winning ticket before they all expire. If lottery ticket sales are low, new shipments won’t be sent out and the top prizes will go unpurchased.

How Winning Tickets Are Placed

How Winning Tickets Are Placed

What are the odds of winning a top-tier prize on a scratch-off ticket if the tickets are in a specific order? Can you crack the code and guess which ticket will be the winner?

While there is some order to how the tickets are placed, the placement is determined by a complicated computer algorithm. Not a single person knows where the winning tickets are dispersed. Someone might know which batch the ticket is in, but there’s no possible way they’ll know exactly which ticket is a winner.

There are two main ways the computer algorithm determines how the winning tickets are placed, which are stratified random distribution and overseeding. Let’s take a closer look at each method.

Stratified Random Distribution

This method uses some math to determine where the tickets are placed. Let’s say there are four grand prizes. The total number of lottery tickets will be divided by four and separated into groups. For the sake of the example, let’s say there are 1,000 tickets. Once they’re divided into four groups of 250, a grand prize ticket is placed into each group.

The computer decides where to place them. The tickets might be equally distanced from each other, or they might not be. In this example, ticket numbers 2, 500, 501, and 987 might all be the grand prize winners. 500 and 501 are right next to each other, but they were placed randomly in two different groups.

This is how stratified random distribution works but on a much larger scale. There might only be 2 or 3 different grand prizes and several million tickets. If a group of tickets has 5 million tickets and one grand prize ticket and is then split into smaller groupings to ship out to stores, there’s a big chance that several stores won’t even have a winning ticket sitting in their store.


This is another method determined by a computer algorithm that may or may not end up a little more random than the other distribution process. The computer creates more grand prizes than there really are and distributes them randomly among all the other tickets.

Once the tickets are distributed, an algorithm chooses which tickets to destroy. It destroys them until the only grand prize tickets that are left are the actual, real grand prize tickets. It tries to distribute them evenly throughout all the tickets, sort of how the other process tries to do that.

Since they’re randomly placed and chosen through an algorithm, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be placed evenly. One ticket might be closer to another ticket than the other one.

It should be remembered that human eyes don’t get to see this process happening. For both ticket distribution methods, nobody knows where the tickets are placed or which ones get destroyed in the overseeding process.

You Can’t Know Which Store Has the Winning Ticket

You Can’t Know Which Store Has the Winning Ticket

Nobody knows which stores the major prize tickets end up at. Each lottery has a tight security system that prevents people from inside and outside of the system of rigging the game or stealing tickets. Different duties and controls within the lotteries are separated so the employees can’t get together and figure out where the winning tickets are. It’s a very closed system that would take a lot of work to crack. Plus, rigging and stealing will send you straight to prison.

Since the winning tickets are placed randomly and batches of tickets are sent out sequentially, it’s impossible to know which stores will get the winning tickets. Scratch-off games are shipped from the vendor to a distribution facility and then out to retailers. It’s difficult to keep track of where the lottery tickets came from and where they’re going to. So even if someone could pinpoint where it was, you can’t really guess where it’s going.

How to Increase Your Chance of Winning

How to Increase Your Chance of Winning

You can’t really change your luck if the winning lottery ticket is sitting in a box in a distribution center miles away, but you can increase your chances of winning by doing these things:

  • Check online to see if there was a winner. Most lotteries record online which big prizes were claimed. Before you buy a ticket, check the websites to see when the last update was. If it was updated recently, you have a better chance of winning because the prize hasn’t been claimed yet.
  • Consider the odds. Lottery tickets list the odds of winning on the back. Bigger odds means you have a better chance of winning something. These games are usually more expensive, but you’re more likely to win something or at least break even.
  • Check the sequence number. Tickets should have their sequence number printed on them. If it’s a low number, you have a better chance of winning. Buying in bulk from the same game might increase your chances of winning.


Lotteries can’t be rigged because of the careful systems that are in place. Computers decide where the winning tickets will go, and nobody ever gets to see where they are. Tickets are distributed sequentially, so it could take a long time for someone to purchase a winning ticket. It’s also possible that nobody will buy a winning ticket.