By Robert Kittle
Starting with the October 22nd drawing, Mega Millions is changing its game so jackpots should get bigger, but the odds of winning those bigger jackpots will be worse. The odds of winning a smaller prize will get better, though.
The second-largest prize, for matching the five white balls, will go up. Right now, matching those five numbers wins $250,000. If you paid the extra $1 for the Megaplier, you would win anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on whether the Megaplier were 2, 3, or 4.
After the changes, matching the five white balls will win $1 million. A Megaplier of 5 is also being added, so the largest second prize would be $5 million instead of $1 million.
The odds of winning the jackpot will go from 1 in 176 million now to 1 in 289 million. That means fewer winners and, since the jackpots roll over, more big jackpots.
Paula Harper Bethea, executive director of the SC Education Lottery, says, "We made the changes to Powerball this past January a year ago, and the Powerball jackpots have grown more quickly. There's been more participation in the game. It created an excitement. And so Mega Millions realized that to bring players back to the Mega Millions game, they were going to have to do something to keep pace."
To change the odds of winning, the numbers you choose will change. Right now, you choose five numbers between 1 and 56. After the change, you'll choose five numbers between 1 and 75.
For the Megaball, now you choose one number between 1 and 46. After the change, you'll pick one number between 1 and 15, making it much easier to win the smallest prize.
Bethea says the larger jackpots mean millions of dollars more for education in South Carolina. The increase in ticket sales for the recent $399.4 million Powerball jackpot, won by a Columbia man who wished to remain anonymous, brought in more than $2 million more for education.