May 11, 2005
MegaMillions update

Mega Millions, the bigass multistate lottery that Texas joined in 2003, is tinkering with its system.


Players will choose five numbers from 1 to 56 and then a Mega Ball number from a second field of 1 to 46. Players currently can choose five numbers from 1 to 52 and then a Mega Ball number from a second field of 1 to 52.

The starting grand/jackpot prize amount will change from $10 million to $12 million.

The second prize level will change from $175,000 to $250,000, and the third prize level will change from $5,000 to $10,000.

The odds of matching all the numbers and the Mega Ball for the grand/jackpot prize will change from 1 in 135 million to 1 in 175.7 million.

The overall odds of winning any prize will be approximately 1 in 40, changing from 1 in 43.


It's not clear to me how the overall odds of winning have improved. There's no indication that they've added a new winning condition, so I can only presume that if I worked through the math, I'd see that the change in number of balls produced a better chance of a match on the low end. That doesn't seem intuitively obvious, but that must be the case.

As for the jackpot odds, all I can say is "wow". Remember when the Texas Lottery debuted, and you had to pick six numbers out of 40? The odds of doing so were about 1 in 16 million. This is an order of magnitude less likely. In real terms, it doesn't matter all that much - you're still more likely to be eaten by a shark while getting struck by lightning during a blue moon. But I'm still impressed.

The change in odds was precipitated by an expected increase in jackpot amounts, which is due to the addition of California to the Mega Millions family.


"With the addition of California's anticipated increase in the overall sales of Mega Millions, we expect a rapid increase in the Mega Millions jackpot levels per roll cycle," said Reagan Greer, the Texas lottery's executive director. "It's our belief that increases to the jackpot amounts will translate into increased sales and increased revenue to the Foundation School Fund."

They say that every time they promise bigger payouts. It always works for awhile, then people lose interest and sales return to previous levels. I will say this - the Lottery Commission has gotten smarter about anticipating this and injecting boosters into the game ahead of the indifference curve. I just wonder how much longer they can keep it up.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 11, 2005 to Jackpot! | TrackBack
Comments

The improvement of the odds is definitely based on the smaller prizes, since there are fewer numbers in the bonus draw (46 instead of 52).

Of course, the odds of hitting the jackpot have increased from 1 in 135 million to 1 in 175.7 million as explained in your post.

"This is an order of magnitude less likely. In real terms, it doesn't matter all that much - you're still more likely to be eaten by a shark while getting struck by lightning during a blue moon"

As a parlay, you might be more likely to hit the Mega Millions jackpot. Of course, for a real reflection of the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot, you might want to refer to the Daffy Duck / Porky Pig cartoon "Fool Coverage", where Daffy sells Porky an insurance policy that pays off only if he is run over by a wild pack of elephants during a hailstorm on the 4th of July. :-)

For those of you who were wondering, I knew the cartoon, but I had to look up the title at http://www.petcaretips.net/daffy-duck-cartoon.html

Posted by: William Hughes on May 11, 2005 8:55 AM