- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - After a year of slumping sales, lottery officials are changing their popular Powerball game to improve the odds of winning smaller cash amounts while making it harder to walk away with the jackpot, the head of the Montana Lottery said Friday.

Montana Lottery financial reports released this month show income from Powerball sales dropped nearly 20 percent for the budget year that ended June 30. Other games such as Mega Millions, Wild Card, Hot Lotto and 10 Spot also saw declines.

“With Powerball, it’s an unpredictable game and a cyclical game,” Montana Lottery director Angela Wong said. “Nationwide, across the board, Powerball has been down. Montana has fared better than the other states.”

One of the issues is jackpot fatigue, in which players are conditioned to large jackpots. Lottery officials may see great sales the first time a jackpot reaches a certain level, but the next time those sales won’t be matched until the jackpot is significantly larger, Wong said.

Powerball is the second-biggest money maker for Montana Lottery, behind scratch tickets. A player must match all six numbers drawn to win the jackpot, which starts at $40 million, and smaller cash amounts are given to people who match fewer numbers.

The jackpot rolls over to progressively larger amounts until somebody wins it.

The changes to the game begin Sunday. The odds of winning the jackpot will go from 1 in 176 million to 1 in 293 million, but the chances of winning any prize will go from 1 in less than 32 to 1 in less than 25.

Montana is part of the Multi-State Lottery Association that runs Powerball, Wild Card, Hot Lotto and Mega Millions. Powerball made $12.5 million for Montana in 2015, compared to $15.5 million the year before.

Even though the big, multi-state jackpot games were down, scratch game sales were up, as were other state games, such as Montana Cash. Montana Lottery officials also reported a decrease in their expenses, with the result being an overall 1.4 percent decline in revenue compared to the year before.

“The lottery has really concentrated on having a diverse portfolio of games and that helps minimize our risk,” Wong said. “It helps us stay steady across the board.”

The lottery is required to transfer its profits to the state’s treasury. Wong said the amount transferred to the state’s general fund this year was about $12 million, the same as the year before.

The Montana Lottery plans to introduce 50 new scratch games over the next year. Scratch ticket sales last year were $17.5 million compared to $16.5 million the year before.

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