Thursday, January 1, 2015

Monopoly Millionaires' Club: What went wrong?

Happy New Year. Your 2014 had to have been better than the one MUSL had, which by all accounts completely whiffed on their Monopoly Millionaires' Club game. The lottery industry seemed down right stoked, the idea of mainstreaming the $5 price point to lotto games; this had only been tried once in South Carolina, with dismal results. However, players did not share in the enthusiasm. Sales were so bad that they pulled the plug after 10 drawings; they simply weren't selling enough tickets to pay for the promised prize amounts. There was a massive rolldown in Pennsylvania where, for example, a 2-number match paid out $97.50 and matching just the property won $135.50 (which I managed to do, yay me). I'm not sure how much of the jackpot Pennsylvania recieved, and in turn paid back to players, but no other states did the same thing. I'd be pretty angry if was a player in one of the other states.

Setting the high price aside, the game was pretty meh. The gimmick of the game was twofold; a chance to win one of several million dollar prizes when the jackpot was won, and a webcode to enter for a chance to appear on a game show. Other than that, it was just Powerball-type game: pick 5 from 52 and one of the 28 Monopoly properties. Except, you could only pick the first five numbers; the property was always a quick pick. You see, the game show qualifying game was a collect-and-win type of deal, not unlike the Monopoly contests McDonald's does. If you entered your webcode, the property on your ticket would be placed on the "board". Get all the properties of a certain color (or all the Railroads) and you win entries. Allowing players to pick their own properties would mean that players could just pick either Boardwalk or Park Place on each ticket, and guarantee themselves several entries every time (not to mention putting the lottery on the hook for much more prizes if Boardwalk or Park Place came up). Good reasoning aside, players like to able to pick their own numbers (or properties), and I'm sure requiring quick pick for the property number kept some people away.

The second "problem" was the jackpot. Any excess jackpot money would go towards those extra million dollar prizes. The idea was to have potentially 100 or more individual million dollar prizes; but to pay for that, the jackpot was capped at $25 million, annuity value. People get excited about big jackpots, and little else. To get someone who's still getting used to $2 Powerball to now plunk down $5 for, at most, $25 mil, you can see why the lotteries were facing an uphill battle. Perhaps the hope was that players would, instead, get excited about being one of 100 or more million dollar winners. With sales the way the were, it could have taken at least a year of losses to get to that point, provided no one won the jackpot in the meantime.

The third problem, computerized drawings. People don't like them, and they never will.

The fourth problem, and the biggest one, is the price. People will pay $5 for a lottery ticket; it's the most popular price point for scratch-offs, in fact. In turn, you need to provided added value: better overall odds; a larger top prize; and most importantly, a higher return percentage (which people notice, albeit indirectly). $5 scratch-offs do all of that, but MMC provided no real added value, instead depending on gimmicks like webcodes. The overall odds were roughly the same as a typical pick-5 with a match 2 prize; the top prize was capped at $25 mil; and the payout percentage was the same as Powerball and Mega Millions, 50% of sales, three-fifths of which go to the jackpot.

If lotteries want people to pay more, then they have to pay more. They are thinking about bringing the game back with some tweaks, but one of those needs to be a higher payout percentage, at least 60% of sales. The extra money can go towards the million dollar raffle prizes, it can go towards higher jackpots, maybe an instant win feature; it can go anywhere, really. Just raise the payouts to loosen the game up. Players will notice.


  1. Something you did NOT mention: the "Millionaires' Club" 1m prizes could not be won UNLESS the jackpot was won or shared. Perhaps there should have been a guaranteed 1m prize even if the jackpot was won. I actually understood how the "Club" and webcode elements worked, even though Connecticut didn't participate.

  2. for the McD's Monopoly game, AFAIK it has never allowed a 1m cash prize or cash option of the annuity.

  3. Another thing that lotteries in general should consider, is to stop being so secretive. They all probably make it job one to not give out information. I read everything about the MMC, on my states website, and ther was no mention that different states had different payouts. My state paid $5 for matching 2 numbers, and $7 for the property number alone. Also, I travel and bought some tickets in three different states, when the game first started. No one mentioned that you cannot enter tickets for the game show drawing from a state other than where the ticket was purchased. Also there were ten winners selected for the game show in the December 2nd drawing for my state. Wonder why all ten were tickets purchased in a specific area of the state, ( ie one quadrant of the state including the capitol city.) Now I see today that they've removed the access (apparently) to the ticket history from the website, so I'm guessing that if you didn't keep the tickets you entered you have no record of tickets entered. I kept mine, not that it'll do me any good, because if I remember correctly for the Dec 2nd drawing there was no list of game show winning tickets to look for your ticket numbers in, just a list of names and cities where their tickets were puchased. Another big thing that I'll bet ticks off all MMC ticket purchasers, is why didn't they at least continue the game until the $25 mil jackpot was won along with how many ever $1 mil winners accumulated, and since they didn't, are they just pocketing the $47+ million dollars. They can brag about how many billions of dollars the lotteries contribute to various good causes, so they can justify taking players money in a questionably constructed overpriced game.

  4. Anon: The MMC payouts from each of the 23 lotteries were the same in each drawing except the last.