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.