South Carolina added a new high stakes jackpot to its lottery lineup Tuesday, agreeing to make the multistate Mega Millions game available in the Palmetto State by the end of January.
Mega Millions will join the ranks of the popular Powerball game as the state's second $1 ticket that offers lucky players a long-shot, multimillion-dollar payoff for picking six numbers.
"We realized we had to do this," said Paula Harper Bethea, executive director of the South Carolina Education Lottery, who said cross-selling had become inevitable.
Bethea asked the lottery commission to approve the new game at its quarterly board meeting.
Adding the MegaMillions jackpot to South Carolina's lottery repertoire could net at least $15 million to $22 million a year in additional money transferred to the state for education use, she said.
"We are down the road on being ready and prepared to do this," said Bethea.
The commission approved the change unanimously Tuesday, following a similar move last week by North Carolina, and agreed to drop the Mega Match 6 scratch-off at year's end to avoid name confusion.
Though no formal agreement is in place between purveyors of the two big games, Georgia also has agreed to add Powerball, played primarily in smaller states, to its featured Mega Millions big-game jackpot lineup.
Cross-selling, as this lottery realignment is known, will give lottery players the opportunity to purchase the big-game lottery ticket they want in their own home states, officials said.
That would eliminate the need for Powerball players in a state like South Carolina to cross the border when Mega Millions jackpots rise in an adjoining state like Georgia, and vice versa, officials reasoned.
Multistate lotteries would be available to players in their home states four nights a week under the new lineup - Tuesdays and Fridays for Mega Millions and Wednesdays and Saturdays for Powerball.
Tuesday's Mega Millions jackpot was worth an estimated $77 million, and tonight's Powerball jackpot, which is available for purchase in South Carolina, is worth an estimated $96 million.The two games also have similar, very long odds against winning the total jackpot - 1 in 175.7 million for MegaMillions and 1 in 195.2 million for Powerball.
Mega Millions is played in larger states such as Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and California, while Powerball is featured in less populated states like many in the South and Midwest.
For the second time in its history - and with the state's unemployment rate hovering above 10 percent in 2008 and 2009 - South Carolina this fiscal year had total lottery sales topping $1 billion. Lottery officials said they transferred more than $260 million to be spent on education.
Lottery proceeds go to K-12 programs, higher-education programs and merit-based scholarships, and to community education programs.
"We have no concerns about it," Tim Madden, lottery commission chairman, said of adding Mega Millions, which he said has been under discussion for up to two years.
"This hits the exact demographic we need in order to increase sales - those with higher incomes and a higher education base," like Powerball.