Powerball Lottery Tickets to Cost Twice as Much

CNN had this post on the Association behind the popular lottery game, Powerball, announcing that, starting January 15, 2012, the price of a ticket to play Powerball would be doubling, to $2 a ticket.  If you read the article, you’ll notice several things.

  1. The starting jackpot will also double, from $20 Million to $40 Million
  2. The second prize (all the white balls without the red “powerball”) will increase from $200,000 to $1 Million.
  3. The Power-Play option, which allows you to pay $1 to double any prize (except the jackpot) will remain at $1

[326/365]  Lottery Money There are a couple other things that you should also notice, but probably won’t.  But, they are likely the more important ones.  First, the number of red “powerball” balls will be decreased from 39 to 35, which will “decrease the odds of winning the jackpot slightly.”  To me, decreasing the odds translates to less chances of winning.  But, that doesn’t make sense.  If there are less choices in the “powerball”, doesn’t that make it more likely to get that match, thereby increasing your odds of winning?  Maybe that’s just a typo.  If it’s not, then I obviously need a new class in statistics and chance.

Second, because the starting jackpot is increasing, and the price is increasing, they estimate that the average jackpot will increase to approximately $255 Million which is a bit more than the average jackpot of $141 Million now.

Finally, the last thing that you should notice is the remark that “We know that most folks play for the big jackpots and this game will have more of those more often.”  I know several people who only play if the jackpot is over a certain value.  Say $100 Million.  The association has obviously noticed that as well.  Heck, it probably didn’t even take a statistics genius to pull the sales numbers and see the spike when you hit a certain amount.  So, rather than find a way to get people to play more often, (North Dakota has a subscription option) they just make it more certain that the jackpot will reach the higher numbers faster, thereby getting those people to play more often.  I wonder if those people who wait until the jackpot is higher in order to save money on lottery ticket costs will realize that they’re buying tickets more often?  A few might, but I bet the majority don’t.

My personal stance on Lottery games is that if you’ve planned for the expense as a “fun” entertainment expense, then, go right ahead and buy those tickets.  But, if you’ve got bills to pay, food to buy, and no budget for the tickets, you really should avoid them at all costs.  I’ve played off and on over the years, and I am one of those people who generally only buy a ticket when the jackpot is really high.  Will I buy tickets more often now that the jackpot is going to be higher, faster?  Probably not.  It just means that the number will have to be adjusted a bit.  Maybe I’ll wait until the jackpot hits $200 Million now…

What about you?  Do you play lottery?  When?  How often?  Will an increased cost per ticket change your habits?

photo credit: Lisa Brewster

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