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.