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
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
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:

6/6Not Applicable
5/6Regular Prize + $10,000
4/6Regular Prize + $100

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.