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.


  1. If they will be increasing the number of balls (lol) from 56 to 75, although that will give the consumers more choices as far as the number to bet on is concerned, wouldn't that change one person's chance of winning the lottery? Just a thought because I'm never really that good in math anyway. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this though.

  2. I'm guessing that the northeastern UNlucky for Life also is going this route, as the six lotteries are planning to make its 2nd prize 25k-a-year-for-life (presumably it soon will have TWO annuity-only prize levels.) Somebody needs to inform the six lotteries that players OVERWHELMINGLY prefer cash versus periodic payments if they are fortunate to win big. This also explains the new Hot Lotto all-cash format; something you might want to update us on.

  3. Update: There WILL be a prize for matching ONLY the Megaball, although it will be reduced to $1.