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Powerball tickets will cost $1 more
Multistate lottery to give better odds, bigger jackpot
Question of the Day
DES MOINES, Iowa — Powerball lottery organizers are betting that bigger jackpots will entice more people to play, but gamblers are going to have to dig deeper into their wallets to try their luck.
Tickets for the multistate game are doubling in price to $2 beginning Jan. 15. Although the odds of winning one of the game’s giant jackpots also are improving, those in charge of the lottery are gambling that people are willing to pay more for the hope of becoming a millionaire in a down economy.
“With the price of everything else going up, there’s not much you can get for a dollar anymore,” said 28-year-old Ryan Raker, of Des Moines, Iowa, who said he buys a ticket once a month. He says he probably will play less frequently now.
Lotteries have long sold regular people on the hope of quick riches by simply picking a lucky combination of numbers. Some play loved ones’ birthdays or anniversaries in the hope that fate may point them in the direction of a jackpot. Selling that hope is easy; less so is predicting consumers’ sensitivity to price changes.
Powerball’s move follows the model of scratch ticket games, which once were all $1 but now are offered at higher prices with the chance for bigger prizes.
The evolution of scratch tickets and the creation of families of games that offer tickets at different prices has proved successful across the country, said Rebecca Hargrove, president of the Tennessee Lottery. Scratch games such as Win for Life in Illinois, Jumbo Bucks in Tennessee and the Crosswords game in Iowa have been successful, Ms. Hargrove said.
“The more choices you gave players, the higher the sales were,” Ms. Hargrove said. “A family of games at multiple price points created the most excitement. Once those kinds of games were introduced, we saw a dramatic increase in sales.”
For example, in Iowa, scratch ticket sales increased from $125 million in 2007 to $165.3 million in 2011, state lottery officials said.
Lottery officials believe that increasing the price of the game will make it more attractive to players, said Terry Rich, a spokesman for the West Des Moines-based Multistate Lottery Association, which runs Powerball.
“People like variety,” Mr. Rich said. “We’re repackaging and freshening up the product and enriching the product.”
Powerball is the big fish of the various lottery games states offer, and typically has some of the biggest payouts. There are nine ways to win the game, from a $3 prize for matching the Powerball number to various payouts for different combinations of winning numbers.
Odds of winning are improving because of changes the game is making in the numbers players can choose. The number of Powerball numbers to choose will decrease from 39 to 35. That will raise the odds of winning from 1 in 192 million to 1 in 175 million.
Picking the right numbers will have a bigger payoff: The starting jackpot is rising from $20 million to $40 million. The amount won for matching all five numbers but not the Powerball will increase from $200,000 to $1 million.
The move is a strategy to differentiate the game from Mega Millions, the other big money, multistate lottery game that is sold for $1 a ticket. Both games are sold in 42 states, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. Each game has drawings twice a week.
It could pay off because consumers often get more excited about larger jackpots and play more. Clyde Barrow, a gambling analyst at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, said larger jackpots should attract more players, even at the higher price.
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