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.