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.