Monday, June 23, 2014

Mega Money "ending" in Florida

I put in the parentheses because the game isn't actually ending in the truest sense. More than anything it's just changing it's name, as if it was a purple-loving musician from Minnesota. Instead of Mega Money, it will now be called Lucky Money. The game for the most part is the same; it's still a pick 4+1 format, the jackpot is still capped at $2,000,000 and any money in excess of that still rolls down to the other amounts, and it's still $1. The only changes are in the matrix; instead of 44 main balls and 22 mega balls, there will now be 47 main balls and 17 "lucky" balls; plus EZmatch will now be available. The result of the matrix change is slightly better overall odds, but roughly the same odds of winning the jackpot. The new top prize odds are 1 in 3,032,205; just a slight increase from Mega Money's odds of 1 in 2,986,522. 

Clearly this change is being made for one reason, and one reason only: people were confusing Mega Money with Mega Millions. No one at the lottery had any reason to believe there was anything wrong with the game; that's why they made such comparatively small changes. Take a look at the new prize structure and compare it to Mega Money.

MatchAvg. PrizeOdds
Match 4+1Jackpot1:3,032,205
Match 4+0$2,1701:189,513
Match 3+1$3401:17,629
Match 3+0$601:1,102
Match 2+1$221:559.6
Match 1+1$31:61.43
Match 2+0$21:34.98
Match 0+1Free Ticket1:24.57
Overall Odds: 1 in 11.32

I for one am glad they aren't making radical changes. Mega Money was fine as is; the format is a variant on the Winfall format that was exploited in Massachusetts, only this has little to incentivise future schemers. Despite the lack of exploitability, it's still a format that can benefit the smart player. Mega Money will live on, just with a new name.

Source 

This is an academic endeavor...

...and like all academic endevors, they tend to start and stop as more pressing issues come to pass. Things like a new job, or a family semi-crisis. Of course, these endevors also have a tendency to start anew, even if for a brief while. What I'm trying to say is: I'm going to try to post again, but I make no promises. 

So, what's happened over these 11 months? Well, Powerball brought back the Powerplay multiplier. That helped, but it's still pretty bleh in it's $2 form. 

It's still better than what Canada got; Lotto 6/49 going to $3, all of the non-jackpot prizes staying the same in the process. From the 4/6 prize up to the 5+bonus prize, those prizes are virtually the same as the original $1 game; the 3/6 prize: exactly the same as the original ($10). A free ticket for two numbers and a "guaranteed million" is cold comfort for players who might be wise to stick to Lotto Max (or their provincial 6/49) from now on.

Speaking of Canada, have you noticed how these Poker Lotto concepts, which originated in Ontario, are sweeping the continent?  Connecticut is the latest to try one, adding it as a midday game. I for one think it's great, this win now/win later idea. In fact, Ontario and Quebec now have three each of these type of games. Hope it keeps growing, and doesn't end up like the playing card-based games of old (anyone in Washington state remember Quinto? They ought to bring it back with this concept). 

While we're on the topic of old games, Lotzee-style games are slowly making a comeback if you can believe it. These kind of games give a player several sets of numbers, each grouped into different sections of ticket based on what you can win. The single line on top is always worth the big prize. This kind of game swept across the nation in the late 90s, and disappeared just as fast. Oregon's Win For Life was, for a while, the only one left. Then Arizona came out of nowhere with Weekly Winnings, and now Missouri has $250K Triple Play. We'll see how this round goes.

That's all I can think of for now. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

New England Lucky For Life changes. Everybody loves a (near) winner.

It been a little more than a year since Lucky For Life launched, the realization of a decades-long push for a New England-wide lottery game (beginning with talks of pushing Tri-State Megabucks into CT, MA, and RI in the 80's). It seems to be reasonably popular, I saw a few LfL tickets being bought when I was in Providence a while back; and there's already plans for a second New England game (possibly a merger of Tri-State Megabucks, Mass. Megabucks, and CT Lotto).

In the meantime, changes are afoot for the young game, with those changes coming on line September 17th. The game will have three more balls in the white ball field, and twenty-two more lucky balls; giving the game 43 numbers in each field. As a result, the game is about to get harder to win; overall odds being increased modestly to about 1 in 8, but top prize odds going up almost threefold to about 1 in 41 million (up from about 1 in 14 mil).

What are these changes for? Bigger lower tier prizes? Maybe $1,000,000/year for life? Odds like this could support such a prize.

No, that'd be too obvious. All of these extra numbers are being added for big increases to the second prize. That's right, not the lower tier prizes, not the jackpot, the second prize. It will go up from $25,000 cash, to $25,000 cash per year for life. A few other prizes are getting modest increases to compensate for the longer odds (new prize amounts are underlined):

Match Prize Odds
Match 5+1 $7,000/week/life 1:41,391,714
Match 5+0 $25,000/year/life 1:985,517
Match 4+1 $3,000 (from $2K) 1:217,851.13
Match 4+0 $150 (from $100) 1:5,186.93
Match 3+1 $100 (up from $50) 1:5,887.87
Match 3+0 $10 1:140.19
Match 2+1 $20 (up from $15) 1:490.66
Match 2+0 $2 1:11.68
Match 1+1 $5 1:112.15
Match 0+1 $4 1:82.46
Overall Odds: 1 in 8.607

Yeah, that second prize is getting a big boost; but very few other prizes are going up that much. The top prize and four of the bottom five prizes aren't going up at all. The prize for matching just the Lucky Ball is staying pat at $4, despite being twice as hard to win; and as I mentioned before winning the grand-a-day-for-life is getting almost three times harder to win. You can see just how much emphasis is being put on this new runner-up prize by comparing the percentages of sales that go towards each prize:

Prize Level Old New
Match 5+1 27.81% 10.27%
Match 5+0 1.81% 27.90%
Match 4+1 1.27% 0.69%
Match 4+0 1.27% 1.45%
Match 3+1 1.08% 0.85%
Match 3+0 4.31% 3.57%
Match 2+1 3.55% 2.04%
Match 2+0 9.47% 8.56%
Match 1+1 4.74% 2.23%
Match 0+1 4.7% 2.43%

If you're not good with numbers, let me break that down. Nearly half of the prize pool (60% of sales) is going to the second prize. Second prizes have usually been the most neglected when it comes to dividing the take. Powerball turned that around last year by putting almost a fifth of the prize pool into the $1,000,000 second prize. That may not be as much of the pool as the jackpot gets, but it's way more than the other prizes get. LfL has now decided that even the top prize should take a back seat to the second prize; and about that prize, $25,000 per year is not that much money, especially after Uncle Sam gets his cut. They sacrificed every other prize category so they could do this. Granted, you can get a lump-sum in this version which you couldn't before; but that's doesn't help much because despite increased odds, the other prizes are pretty much staying where they are. Solid A game, about to go down a whole letter grade. I give this new LfL is a B-.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mega Millions Update!

As you may have heard, Mega Millions is going through some changes, with sales beginning October 19th and the first drawing the following Tuesday. Information has been slowly trickling in as the date approaches; but a little research uncovered all the juicy details. First the prizes and odds:
Yes, I did make that graphic, don't expect it to be a regular thing. But back to the topic at hand. As you can see it's a much different prize structure than it is now, but you can still win the same ways as now.

Also, while it is different, there is familiar tinge. The lower 4 prize levels are the same prize amounts as MM's predecessor The Big Game, albeit with different odds. For example, the odds of winning $5 in the last version of The Big Game were 1 in 156. Winning $5 here has overall odds of 1 in 292. On the flip side, winning a buck for matching the Mega Ball by itself will have odds around 1 in 21, compared to 1 in 62 in the old Big Game.

Now, take a look at those odds. As mentioned earlier, they're going to be massive; though as I mentioned in a previous post the odds of winning the jackpot with two $1 Mega Millions tickets will still be better than your odds of winning with one $2 Powerball. And overall odds will be better, 1 out of roughly 15 tickets will win something.

The best part of the changes, however, come with the Megaplier. Not only is it sticking around, but a 5x multiplier will be added. So while winning 2nd prize has roughly the same odds as winning a 6-from-51 lotto, the prize with Megaplier is like a 6-number lotto, too; one can win up to $5,000,000 cash if they add the Megaplier. Here are the odds of each factor for those interested:
While matching the Mega Ball has a disproportionate amount of importance (odds of winning without the Mega Ball: 1 in 704), there are only 15 of them and the overall odds of winning are not far from a larger pick-5 game. The Megaplier makes this game even more attractive, with bigger multipliers it's not unlike the old $1 Powerball. However, the odds of winning the bigger prizes keep it from really jumping out at me as a game to get excited about. That said, this is not a bad change either; which is good because one game out there is undergoing a needlessly bad change. More on that later...

What is the deal with All Or Nothing?

Sounds a bit like a Jerry Seinfeld routine, doesn't it? But still, what's up with that? It was here for a while and then it went away. Not cancelled like so many other games, just suspended; the game had a rather nasty flaw in it, or so they said. Some people on Lottery Post immediately assumed it was a flaw that benefited players, hence the reason behind the suspension.

Actually, this isn't altogether untrue; players could have benefited from this, but only in rare circumstances. You see the All or Nothing rules as originally written placed no limits on how much could be paid out in a particular draw. This is common practice in games with fixed payouts; for example in Virginia, if more than 20 people match all the numbers in Cash 5 they all split $2,000,000 (the $100K top prize times 20). This way the lottery won't be on the hook for too much if a popular combo comes up (say, 1-2-3-4-5).

However there was nothing protecting Texas from such an event in All or Nothing. If a popular combo came up like all odds or all evens (which can be bought with just one tick on a play slip), then Texas would owe all of those players $250,000. And that could really be troubling if, say, a thousand people had all the winning numbers (that's $250 million cash they'd owe, if you're counting at home).

The proposed rule change would cap the number of top prizes in a single All or Nothing draw to twenty. That would mean up to 20 people could win the full $250 grand, and if more than 20 won, they'd all split $5,000,000. That's a pretty generous payout for a niche game like this. One question remains, what's taking so long? It's been almost two months, and still no word on when it's coming back. How long does it take to get an emergency rule change done? I guess we'll find out, someday.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ball drawings coming back to Indiana!

I haven't posted anything in a while, as I've been in the process of moving. But one tidbit has caught my eye that needs to be said and it's pretty good news. The Hoosier (Indiana) Lottery recently put multi-state draws back on Indianapolis Fox affiliate WXIN. But the announcement page also had a very important line there as well, which reads:

"Plus, live Daily 3 and Daily 4 drawings will be coming this fall!".

Now when I first read that, I thought they meant the cartoon drawings that Tennessee and Minnesota have. Indiana has had computerized drawings for several years now. However one line the procurement presentation (.pdf file) confirms what is very good news:

"Drawing equipment (machines, numbered ball sets, random number generator, etc.) for conducting the Daily 3 and Daily 4 draws."

It does mention a random number generator, but that is probably to be used for selecting the aforementioned machines and ball sets; and it appears that the other games (Hoosier Lotto, for example) will remain computerized for the time being. But this is fantastic news for players in Indiana, whose computerized draws were once a popular gripe on Lottery Post (more so than other RNG states). It's also good for players everywhere else. This is the first time ever that a lottery has switched back to balls after going computerized; and this could mark a precedent for other computerized draws to change back to balls, as well.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Less bang for your buck on Illinois Lotto (and a lot of other games).

Ever since Northstar took over the Illinois Lottery, they have had little reservations about changing things. They just added a midday drawing to Lucky Day Lotto, the first time I've ever seen a game with a rolling jackpot going twice a day. A less revolutionary, but no less big change is coming to Lotto in July. The price is being "raised" from two plays for $1, to just one play for $1 (or $2 if you add Extra Shot). In addition, a new prize category will be added to the base Lotto game, a $1 prize for matching two numbers, plus all of the other prizes are also going up. The game will be keeping it's 6/52 matrix, and Extra Shot will still have 25 numbers. Illinois' website has all of the further details, so I don't see a need to repeat it here.

This is not the first time Illinois Lotto went from two to one plays for $1. Back in 1997, Lotto went to a 6/48 with an all-cash jackpot (hence the tag line "All the Money, All at Once."); going to one play for $1 and adding a match three prize (a free $1 scratch-off). This was presumably a failure as a little more than a year later the game went back to two plays for a buck, with that format running to this day (though as previously mentioned, not for much longer). New York also did something similar to their Lotto around this time, going to a 6/51 with one play for $1. This was also a dud as they went back to a two for a buck format, the 6/59 currently running now (and knowing the New York Lottery, probably for another decade).
The New York Lottery game development department.
Illinois is getting a better deal with this price increase than most other games have. When Powerball went to $2, for example, nearly all of that extra dollar went to either the jackpot or the new $1 million match 5 prize. The lower tier prizes stayed pretty much the same, and the Powerplay lost a lot of the "power" it had to increase those smaller prizes. With the old Powerplay you could have won up to $35 for matching 3, or up to $500 for matching 4. Respectively, $14 and $200 was the least you could win; now that's the most you can win, even with the extra dollar in price.

Canadians were the first to get this treatment back in 2004, when Lotto 6/49 went from a Loonie to a Toonie (aren't I the currency aficionado?). Aside from the new 2+Bonus prize, all the extra money went to the jackpot; the other lower tier prizes stayed exactly the same on average. To be fair, the 6/49 jackpots were pretty low compared to what they are now; but nothing extra for any of the other winners seems like a bit of a snow job.
...and the last thing Canadians need is another Snow Job.
Since then, Lotto Super 7 went from $2 to $5, becoming Lotto Max in the process. The other prizes did actually get bigger that time, so it was less painful than before. Lotto 6/49 is due to go to $3 later this year; and other than a free ticket for 2 out of 6, and a million dollar raffle for each draw, no other changes seem to be planned. Hopefully, players might actually get some real added value this time, instead of just bigger jackpots (and free tickets).

Oh, and before I forget, the British national Lotto is also due to go up to £2, or about US$3. So there's that, too. Getting rich quick isn't as cheap as it used to be.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Oregon fights jackpot fatigue: Players win.

How many of you out there buy Powerball tickets at the minimum $40 mil jackpot? Yeah, me neither. This is a symptom of what's know in the lotto biz as "jackpot fatigue", when players expect bigger jackpots and don't see the need to throw their money at smaller figures. Well, if you live in Oregon, there's now a little bonus for playing small ball. When the Powerball jackpot is at $40 million, buying a PB ticket gets you a free Mega Millions quick pick. There appears to be no limit, and that is apparently the case regardless of what the Mega Millions jackpot is. Just make sure that if you decide to take up the Oregon Lottery on it's offer, that you buy your Powerball tickets one at a time; because if you might buy more than one PB on a single ticket, you'll still only get the one MM.

This begs the question, how else can lotteries fight jackpot fatigue? What would get you to buy at a "low" jackpot?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mega Millions: a quarter-billion to 1?!

First blog in quite a while, so there's a lot to talk about. CA Powerball players getting shortchanged (sometimes); Japan added a new game, I know a few people might be interested in that; plus I'm still meaning to write a few articles on lotteries in other countries, as well as one on the worst games of all time. Oh, and Illinois is changing Lucky Day Lotto to a twice-a-day game. I've never seen a jackpot game anywhere have two draws a day. That could be interesting.

But if I write one lottery blog this year, I'll make it about the changes Mega Millions will be going through this October. I heard on Lottery Post a little while ago that Michigan was drawing down the length of multi-draws that can be bought, a telltale sign that changes are being made (which makes sense with Florida finally in the game). I figured one of two things would happen: either they would cede the big jackpot crown to Powerball and go for a game that's easier to win, or really jack up the odds to bring it up to PB's level without changing the price. Apparently, it will be the latter. The game will be adding 19 white balls to the mix, bringing the number of white balls to 75! That's a lot of balls (I'm not going there, make your own joke). Though, to temper the mass of numbers on that end, the number of Mega balls are going down, from 46 down to just 15! That's very important regarding what the smaller prizes could end up being, but that's just speculation and I'll save that for the end.

What we know for sure is very little. The odds of winning the jackpot are going way, WAY up; from about 1 in 175 million, to just under 259 million to 1. But the price will remain at a dollar; and if you compare the odds of winning with $2 worth of tickets (1 in 129 million), it's still lower than the odds of winning Powerball on a $2 play (1 in 175 million). The odds of matching 5 white balls are also going way up, to 1 in about 18 and half million. That's more than a lot of in-state lotto games. Apparently, the prize for that will be $1 million, which would only take about 5.4% of sales to support, so the other prizes won't take as big a hit as Powerball's did when it went to $2 (up to $35 for matching 3 with $2 Powerplay, to no more than $14 with $3 PP now, what a joke).

That brings me to smaller prizes, namely, the smallest prizes. The article quotes a South Dakota official saying that the overall odds will stay at 1 in 40. Well, I've crunched the numbers, and I don't see how that's possible. If the prize structure remains like it is now, with a prize for matching just the Mega ball, or 3 or more white balls without the Mega ball, the overall odds of winning any prize would be roughly 1 in 14. Maybe the writer of the article misheard the number 14 and thought it was 40. That could be, but there are a couple of other scenarios. One is that the Mega ball-only prize is replaced with a prize for 2 white balls (without the MB), that would bring the overall odds to 1 in 20. The other premise is the ninth prize is ditched altogether, with no prize for matching just the MB or for just 2 white balls. The overall odds then would be 1 in 47. Those are the scenarios; call me cynical, but my money is on the ninth prize being ditched enitrely. The lottery officials probably want Mega Millions to appear "cheaper", so make it harder to win the jackpot, or to win anything. But I could be wrong.

And one other thing, what's going to happen to the Megaplier? I'm pretty sure it will still be around, I'm very curious what changes, if any, will be made. Could we see a $4,000,000 prize for 5 white balls? That would certainly disprove my thesis about making it look "cheaper". I don't know what's going through their minds right now, not much went through their minds when the re-designed Powerball; hopefully they'll show some brains with Mega Millions. Tell me what you think in the comment section below, I think more comments might motivate me to write more blogs. Fire away.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Changes to Hot Lotto & Wild Card 2

MUSL has been busy this year. They launched a new (but not improved) Powerball, and they've worked on changes on two of their other multi-state games. Wild Card 2 and Hot Lotto will both look different in 2013, I'll start with Wild Card 2 as it will be changing first (and very soon).

The changes will happen on January 13th, and they will be pretty modest. The amount of white numbers will increase to 33 (up from 31). The minimum jackpot will also double to $200,000. But other than a few other prize increases to account for the longer odds, not much else is changing. The states offering the game will still be the small club it is now; you'll still get two plays for $1; drawings will still be Wednesday and Saturday; and the field of Wild Cards will still just consist of the 16 face cards. Here are the new prizes and odds:

MatchPrizeOdds (per $1)
5+WCAvg. $457,0001:1,898,688
5$6,0001:126,579
4+WC$5001:13,562
4$301:904
3+WC$61:502
3$21:33
2+WC$21:58
1+WC$11:19
WC Only$11:19
Overall Odds (per $1): 1:6.67

Later on this year, Hot Lotto will also be changing. That will happen, tenatively, on May 12th; and they'll be a bit more radical than the changes to Wild Card. While the game will still have the same draw days and the same price; the jackpot prize will look very different. Instead of being a 25-year annuity; the advertised jackpot will now be the lump sum amount, after taxes. The amount you see on the billboard (if Hot Lotto had billboards) would be what you'd actually get if you won.

But that jackpot will be a lot harder to win; three times harder, in fact; as the amount of white balls will increase from 39 to 47. However, the number of "Hot" balls will still stay at 19; so the overall odds of winning a prize won't increase much.  The Sizzler will also stay, and will still triple all prizes. The new prize structure is as follows:

MatchPrizeOdds (per $1)
5+HBAvg. $5.7 mil*1:29,144,841
5$30,0001:1,619,158
4+HB$3,0001:138,785
4$1001:7,710
3+HB$501:3,385
3$61:188
2+HB$61:254
1+HB$31:52
HB Only$21:34
Overall Odds (per $1): 1:17.22
*Lump sum, after 25% federal tax.
State taxes not included in calculation.

As you may have noticed, there's still a matter of state taxes; that's going to create an interesting wrinkle. Because states have different tax rates (or none at all), many of the Hot Lotto states might be advertising different jackpots (as they will be advertising the after-tax prize). For example; in Delaware, where lottery winnings are not subject to state tax, they could advertise a jackpot of $2 million; but in Minnesota, which has a 7.25% state tax, they could be advertising a jackpot of about $1.8 million for the same draw. Now, I'm not sure if this is how it really will be; but quite frankly, I don't see a way around it. Could be something to ask MUSL about.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Feature coming to Lotto Texas

In my opinion, the best add-on to a game anywhere is the Xtra feature in Florida Lotto. It not only betters your odds of winning something, but it also raises your expected return from 50% to 60%.

Well, something very similar is coming to Lotto Texas, according to a rules change proposal. It will increase non-jackpot prizes as well as a prize for matching 2 numbers (provided you pay the extra dollar). The difference is that instead of a multiplier, each prize category will have a set prize amount. In addition, matching 2 out of 6 will win $2 cash (Florida pays out a free Lotto ticket with Xtra). The actual amounts are as follows:

MatchPrize
6/6Not Applicable
5/6Regular Prize + $10,000
4/6Regular Prize + $100
3/6$13
2/6$2

Now when this is launched, should you buy it? That is, should you pay the extra dollar? This does raise your rate of return, but only to 51.85%. But considering Lotto Texas contributes less than 10% of sales to lower tier prizes, I'd say Extra is a good buy. Much more of your money will go towards the lower tier prizes (the prizes you might actually win); and along with the $2 prize, getting Extra will play to your advantage.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Future Blogs

These are some of the blogs that you can look for in the coming weeks, or months, or whenever I have time to post something.
  • Another review of international lotteries; likely either Brazil or Spain.
  • My countdown of the the 5 worst lottery games of all time!
  • My review of Ontario's new lotto game that replaced Rock-Paper-Scissors.
If you have another idea for a future blog, leave a comment below!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Florida (Lottery) Turns 25: Nostalgia Time!


Courtesy: floridamemory.com
What got me to be so fascinated with the lottery world? Fascinated enough to actually to go through to the trouble to actually start a blog. Like most people's personal fascinations, this goes back to my early childhood. So when I visited the Florida Lottery's website and saw their 25th anniversary "festivities" and the "revival" of their first instant game Millionaire, I couldn't help think of my memories of the Florida Lottery's early years, which closely paralelled my early years.

I grew up outside Tampa; and from the time Florida's Lotto started up, it was a weekly tradition for my dad to go to the local Presto store and buy 5 Lotto tickets. And back in those days, you would literally get 5 singular tickets, you didn't get one ticket with several lines like you do now. It may have been a little inconvenient, but they had a series of some pretty cool art on the head of ticket. I've seen old Minnesota and Pennsylvania tickets with something similar, as they used the same model of lottery computer. But they never looked as cool as the pictures on Florida's tickets. Sadly though, this is probably something we'll never see on lottery tickets again.


Courtesy: VintageGameWorld.com
But there's one thing that would really drive the lottery player of today crazy. For the first couple of years of Florida Lotto, there was no quick pick. You came up with your own six numbers, or you didn't play. The strange thing is, this wasn't a common thing even then. By the time Florida got it's computerized games in 1988, most other states had quick pick. Florida wouldn't get it until 1990. So what did my dad do to pick his numbers? He got out the Rack-O game. This was a game where you had to put numbered cards in a sequence; or something like that, I never played it. But my dad used it to pick numbers by shuffling the cards (the ones numbered 1-49, anyway), and just drawing them one at a time, marking the number on the play slip. Sound fun? Well, it may have been slightly more engaging than a quick pick; but my dad was still pretty glad when quick pick came along.

Courtesy: floridamemory.com
It was hard not to notice the Florida Lottery's presence. There were Lotto billboards everywhere, with manual numbers that were changed without fail every Sunday morning (and Thursday morning after the second draw was addded). That was one of many touches that the first lottery director, Rebecca Paul, put on the new venture. She knew how to give a lottery charm, and did an equally good job of it when she started Georgia's lottery.

But my fondest memory of the Florida Lottery was the drawings! Watching the balls bouncing around was one of the coolest things my pre-pubecent eyes had ever seen. Bouncing here and there, and then one pops up, followed by another, and then another. My dad would sit there, hoping the numbers on the balls matched the ones on his tickets. I didn't have a ticket, nor would I for nearly two decades, but I enjoyed that one minute as much as anybody. So much so, I even made a point to watch the Illinois drawings on WGN. I didn't get to watch these very often though, as they aired just before the late news (on WTVT, channel 13, back when they were a CBS affiliate). And you can't let a small child stay up until 11 when he has kindergarten in the morning.
 
Florida is still one of the better lotteries out there; though after Rebecca Paul left, the lottery became very conservative in their approach compared to other large state's lotteries. Lotto was one of the biggest games in the country for several more years, but the rest of the lottery became very stale. The lottery remained one of the most conservative lotteries up until the mid-2000s, but in recent years Florida's been one of the more aggressive in terms of offering innovative games. However, they are still very wary of multi-state games. They were the last state lottery to not have a multi-state game until they joined Powerball in 2009. And they are still the only lottery to not offer Mega Millions, and they have no plans to join up to this point.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

CA Powerball Update

The CA Lottery seemed pretty eager to tell everyone about the upcoming launch of Powerball. They made their press release pretty soon after the announcement. If you want to see the press release, click here. But the basic jist of the story is that Powerball will become available in CA on April 8th of next year. The release also says that the prize pool will be pari-mutuel, like SuperLotto Plus and Mega Millions (in California).

I looked at the proposed rules, and there was no mention of PowerPlay; so I can safely say that it won't be available in CA. I thought that with the multiplier gone, and with all PowerPlay prizes the same for each draw; I figured that this could be adapted for pari-mutuel payouts. But the 5/5 prize would probably have a hard time keeping near the $2,000,000 prize all the other states get. In fact, I'd bet that if they had a pari-mutuel PowerPlay available, a 5/5 winner might only get an increase of around $50,000 (if there was a winner in the prior draw). That wouldn't go over too well. So while I thought there might be a possibility of PowerPlay being available in CA, I'm not surprised that they decided to pass on it.

This scheme does provide for a very interesting prospect for the 5/5 prize. It will roll over when there is no winner, like Mega Millions does in CA. Mega Millions has had a few 5/5 "mini-jackpots" worth over $1,000,000. And that's with no Megaplier, and no extra money wagered. However, there have been 5/5 winners that have won significantly less than the quarter-million offered in other states. So it's a double-edged sword, and this will also be the case with Powerball.

The 5/5 prize pool will probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of $500K with each draw, more if the main jackpot is big. So if someone is to win $1 million+ by matching 5/5, there will likely need to be a lack of 5/5 winners the previous draw. If there are 5/5 winners in consecutive draws, they will almost certainly win less than $1 million, probably much less. But there is an upside with the rollover rule. If there's a string of draws with no 5/5 winners, a 5/5 win will net a lot more than $1 million (to a single winner, of course). I wouldn't be surprised to see a 5/5 prize pool of $3,000,000 or more somewhere down the line. Will somebody actually win that much? Nobody knows, but I can say this is definately a fun wrinkle to CA's Powerball.

Friday, November 30, 2012

New feature in Illinois Lotto

I don't know how I missed this one for this long, but Illinois added a new feature to Lotto called "Extra Shot". Before I talk about this, take a look at the new logo for the game. Doesn't it kind of look like a logo for a downmarket supermarket that's trying to project a "fresh" image? But in reality, most of their meat and produce is either rotten or poor quality. I don't know, I look too much into graphic design.

Fortunately, this is not a supermarket, but a pretty decent addition to an already decent game. For an extra dollar for two plays, you get an extra number (always quick-picked) between 1 and 25 on each line. Match that number to the winning "extra shot" number, and you win. In essence, this changes the game into a Powerball-type game if you decide to play this extra feature.

So for example, if you match 0, 1, or 2 of the Lotto numbers, you wouldn't win as usual. But you would win if matched the "extra shot". So if you match no Lotto numbers and the "extra shot" you would win $5, you would win $2 if you matched 1 and the ES, and 2 and the ES wins $10. If you match 3, 4, or 5 of the Lotto numbers without the ES, you win the base Lotto prize for that match. But if you match 3, 4, or 5 and the ES, you win the base prize multiplied by 25. So a 3+ES match would win $75, for example.

You could technically also match all 6 numbers and the ES, but that would not win anything beyond the jackpot. And the odds of doing that would be 1 in 508,963,000; so I wouldn't call that a flaw. Nobody's going to do that.

What I would call a flaw is that fact that matching no numbers and the ES pays out more money than matching 1+ES. If I had to make a list of rules for lottery directors, one of those rules would be to "never pay out less for one prize if it's harder to win than a larger prize". The odds of winning $2 on a 1+ES match is one in 62 (on a single line). It's easier to match 0+ES at 1 in 54 odds, but that wins more money than a 0+ES match at $5.

In layman's terms, they pay out less money for matching more numbers. That kind of irks me, and is a flaw in an otherwise decent addition. I think they might have been better off going with some sort of multiplier (like the Megaplier or Florida Lotto with Xtra).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where have all the Lottos gone?

Courtesy: U.S. News & World Report
It's something I've wondered lately, especially as we have our second half-billion jackpot in less than a year. What does the common man or woman think they're going to do with all that money? I could definitely understand why a entrepreneur or an armchair philanthropist would look at that sum with glee. But most people don't think that way. So what make a prize like this such a draw, and why is it such a draw that it has made games with mere seven-figure prizes largely obsolete? I didn't know any kind of cash prize could go obsolete.

A few states have gotten rid of their traditional in-state lotto games (Georgia and Maryland come to mind) because, presumably, nobody wants a $5 million jackpot anymore. They've replaced these games either with new games that have some kind of wrinkle to them (like PA's Match 6, or Ohio's old Lot-O-Play), or a traditional pick-6 with a set, non-traditional prize (i.e. Decades of Dollars). And states that have kept their traditional games have seen their sales plummet. Even if Powerball and Mega Millions have much longer odds, they have bigger jackpots and thus bigger sales. There have even been some rare instances in the past few years where the in-state game had a bigger jackpot, and the multi-state game was still the bigger draw.

Is this a bad development for players? Or are lotteries evolving into an ultimately better product? I personally wish that the traditional, in-state games could co-exist in harmony with the big multi-state games. But most players, they've made their decision with their dollars: they want hundreds of thousands, or hundreds of millions, and nothing in between.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Powerball in California: What to expect. (Pre-Announcement Speculations)

12/2/12 Update: The proposed rules have been posted at the CA Lottery website. I will post an update explaining everything soon; but for now, just regard the following blog as a "what could have been?".

11/30/12 Update: This blog was written before the offical announcement from the CA Lottery. But as you can see, it turned out to be correct. But the rest is still speculation for now.

The following blog is mere speculation, except for one thing: Powerball is indeed coming to California sometime in 2013. CA Lottery documents and meeting minutes from the New Hampshire Lottery both say this. However, I can't promise that they will follow through, delays can always pop up. But odds are, this will be 2013's most anticipated game, save for maybe GTA V.

However, California's lottery law will likely create a version of Powerball different from what every other state has. The law essentially requires that all payouts for an online game be parimutuel. This basically means that prize amounts will vary from draw to draw.

This is the rule Mega Millions follows in California. This is a double edged sword for players. On one hand the second prize can rollover and create a mini-jackpot. Players have won $1 million plus for 5/5 without putting down any extra money. The downside, however, is that prizes can end up being quite smaller than what other states get. A Mega drawing in June saw a second prize of about $57K. A lot of money, but significantly less than the $250K they would've gotten somewhere else. And with prize amounts varying as much as this, Megaplier will probably never be offered in California.

So is this what Powerball going to look like in CA? A parimutuel scheme like this would be very interesting because of the large 5/5 prize Powerball has now, and the fact that California will probably offer PowerPlay. It could create some big 5/5 prizes (upwards of $4M with PowerPlay), but could also create some really low prizes (like $300K with PP). That's why I think another situation could take place. Powerball in CA could have a payout scheme similar to Hot Spot, where the prizes are capped at a set amount, and are only lowered if there isn't enough in the prize pool to pay out. So, CA could see semi-fixed prizes in Powerball, and not the varying amounts seen in Mega Millions or SuperLotto Plus. But again, this is just speculation.

And another, unrelated note; what will happen to SuperLotto Plus after this? Move drawings to Mondays and Thursdays? Maybe go back to the old 6/49 format from the 80s? Sales are going to down after this, for sure; so there will probably be changes at some point.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Big (little) jackpot in Ohio.

Ohio's Rolling Cash 5 jackpot is the largest it's ever been, $963,000. This game is one of the best of the 5-out-of-39 games out there (especially since Cash 5 in PA went to 43-ball structure). There have been three jackpot rolls in the past year that have gone over $500,000 (and one a few months ago came within $11K of half a mil). And 4-out-of-5 gets $300, much higher than most states.

I know Cash 5 in PA had reached over a million a few times back when it was 5/39, and OH's Rolling Cash 5 is essentially the same game now as PA's game was in it's original form (right down to the lower-tier prize amounts). And as someone who really misses the old PA Cash 5, it's nice that Ohio is still keeping such a well-structured game in it's line-up. It's also nice to see it get on a roll like this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Addendum to last blog.

A couple of details about the new Cash 5 game in Indiana. It will indeed be replacing Lucky 5, and it will go on sale on November 4th.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Four new games...

There are four new games that have come to my attention in recent times.

Natural State Jackpot (AR)

Arkansas introduced this game a few weeks ago. It's a daily 5/39 with a rolling jackpot, not all that different from Rolling Cash 5 in Ohio or Fantasy 5 in Michigan and/or Georgia. The lower tier prizes are as follows:
  • Match 2: $1
  • Match 3: $7
  • Match 4: $300 
The jackpot, however, leaves a lot to be desired. It starts at just $25,000; and grows by $5,000 each time there's no winner (regardless of sales). This is understandable considering Arkansas' relatively low population, and the fact their lottery is still pretty new. I just don't know why they went with a 5/39. $25,000 with $5,000 increases is pretty dinky for a game with 1 in 500,000+ odds. I think fewer numbers in the field (35 or so) would have been more appropriate.

All Or Nothing (TX)

Now this game has a lot talk about. For one, they took an idea that I came up with before (look at my HiLo game from a while back). Second, they have taken the nearly unheard of step of having four drawings a day; quite a step for a brand new game concept that has not been proven. Third, not only do they have four drawings a day, they're each drawn with balls. No computerized drawings! And they can all be viewed on their website.

Anyway, the game is played by picking 12 out of 24 numbers. The play slips also give to option to pick all the odd numbers, all the even numbers, the first 12, and the last 12 numbers with one checkmark (this could create problems, but that will be discussed in a moment). Each ticket costs $2; and as for the prizes:
  • Match 12 or 0: $250,000
  • Match 11 or 1: $500
  • Match 10 or 2: $50
  • Match 9 or 3: $10
  • Match 8 or 4: $2
As you can see, matching between 5-7 numbers wins nothing. The overall odds are 1 in 4.5, the odds of winning the top prize is 1 in about 2.7 million. About 56% sales will go towards prizes.

See how this game will perform will be interesting. If it's successful, we'll probably see this concept in a few more states; and Texas will likely expand Pick 3 and Daily 4 to four times a day.  However, Texas might be inviting disaster with this game, particularly with them encouraging players to pick the same number combinations (all odd, first 12, etc.). If one of those combinations come up in some shape of form, they'll be forced to really reduce payouts in order to keep the liability down (for that one draw, at least). So if you're playing, don't fall into that trap and either pick your own numbers or get a quick pick. Otherwise, you might find yourself winning a lot less than you deserve.

Weekly Winnings (AZ)

Replacing the Ca$h 4 game, here comes a concept that was thought to have largely died a long time ago. Weekly Winnings is a sort of throwback to the 4-number, multiple line games that took the nation by storm in the late 90s; like New Jersey's Lotzee and the multi-state Cash4Life. Up until now, the only game like this left in the U.S. was Oregon's Win For Life.

For those who don't remember, this type of game gives you multiple lines of numbers, sometimes as many as 21 on a single ticket. Matching all 4 on a line wins a certain amount dependent on which line was hit (you match all 4 on the top line, you win x; you match all four on either of the next two lines, you win y). If you're confused, don't feel bad, this game confused a lot of players; which may have led this type of game to ditched rather quickly.

In any event, Arizona has brought this game back from the dead, albeit on a smaller scale. You get six lines for each $2 play . Players can pick 4 numbers out of 50 for the top line, but the next 5 are always quick-picked. Match all 4 on the top line and win $52,000 (or $1,000 a week for a year, hence the name). Match 4 on the either of the next 2 lines and win $10,000. Match 4 on any of the bottom 3 lines and win $1,000. Matching 3 or 2 numbers on any of the six lines on a ticket wins $50 and $2, respectively.

Cash 5 (Indiana)

This game hasn't been rolled out yet, nor has a release date been set. But it will be a straight pick 5 out of 39, like the new game in Arkansas and like games in three states that border Indiana. Drawings will be daily, tickets are $1 apiece, and the prize structure is as follows:
  • Match 5: Jackpot ($50,000 minimum)
  • Match 4: $150
  • Match 3: $10
  • Match 2: $1
Nothing revolutionary about this game, but it's a tried-and-true format. No word on whether this will replace another game, such as Lucky 5. If it doesn't supplant anything, this would give the Hoosier Lottery nine different online games (an even 10 if you count the Hoosier Lotto add-on Tag 6).

Other News

Regarding me personally, I've been really busy with school; so updates aren't happening as much as I'd like. I may be able to post more often in the future, but I cannot make any guarantees.

Also, there are some changes apparently coming to Hot Lotto. The New Hampshire Lottery made note of this in their meeting minutes which they post on their website (thank you NH Lottery, by the way). No notes about what changes are being made; but seeing how Hot Lotto is now a decade old, at least double the lifespan of each of it's predecessors, I wouldn't be surprised if these changes are drastic (if it isn't an entirely new game).