Mega Millions making changes to boost jackpots, winning tickets, compete with Powerball

ashain@thestate.comOctober 1, 2013 


— Hoping to build more large jackpots -- like the recent $399.4 million Powerball ticket sold in Lexington last month -- the other multi-state lottery, Mega Millions, is making changes starting with its Oct. 22 drawing.

Mega Millions, which is sold in 43 states including South Carolina, will decrease the number of Megaballs, which trigger most prizes, to 15 from 46. The game will raise the number of other balls, which are white, to 75 from 56. Each drawing includes five white balls and a Megaball.

The moves will increase the odds of winning any prize, which start at $1, but lower the odds of winning bigger prizes.

“Lottery players have been spoiled by a rash of record-breaking jackpots,” S.C. Education Lottery executive director Paula Harper Bethea said in a statement. “Mega Millions saw where change was necessary to keep pace and attract players back to its exciting brand, and we feel that will be the case in South Carolina.”

Here’s how Mega Millions will change:

• Chances of hitting the Mega Millions jackpot will decrease to 1 in 259 million from 1 in 176 million with the additional white balls.

Those longer odds will boost the likelihood of more jackpots building up and soaring past $100 million, a total that can trigger a run on ticket sales. The Mega Millions jackpot is $189 million for Tuesday night’s drawing.

• The odds of winning Mega Millions’ next biggest prize -- by matching five white balls -- will decrease to 1 in 18.4 million from 1 in 3.9 million

But the payout will get bigger -- $1 million, instead of $250,000. That will make Mega Millions have the same payout as Powerball’s second-place prize.

• The odds of winning any Mega Millions prize will improve to 1 in 15 from 1 in 40. With the odds improving, the payout for most of Mega Millions’ smaller prizes will drop by $1 to $5,000. The odds of winning any Powerball prize is 1 in 32.

Mega Millions ticket prices remain $1. Powerball tickets rose to $2 each last year after its lowest winning jackpot was doubled to $40 million and other payouts also were increased.

Seven of Powerball’s 10 biggest jackpots, including the Lexington ticket from last month, have come since the price hike. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 175 million.

The Columbia-area winner of the $399.4 million Powerball jackpot -- the fifth-largest U.S. lottery payout -- has chosen to remain anonymous.

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