5 things that will change about Mega Millions starting Saturday

Starting this weekend, the Mega Millions lottery will cost twice as much to play, have longer odds and feature bigger prizes.

The changes are in response to customers who want big jackpots, Mega Millions President Debbie D. Alford said in a statement. 

“We have a demand for innovation to keep fresh, entertaining lottery games and to deliver the attention-grabbing jackpots,” said Alford, who also is president and chief executive officer of the Georgia Lottery Corp.

Mega Millions' largest jackpot ever was $656 million, won March 30, 2012, and split among three tickets sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland, according to the lottery's website. It's No. 3 of the top U.S. lottery jackpots.

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Meanwhile, the granddaddy of state lotteries, Powerball, has the first and second largest jackpots, and the winners are more recent: A $1.6 billion prize won Jan. 13, 2016, and split among three tickets, and a $758.7 million jackpot won Aug. 23, 2017, with a ticket sold in Massachusetts.

Mega Millions' new structure is expected to speed up jackpot growth and boost the likelihood of a jackpot reaching $1 billion.

Here are five changes that will start with the game's Oct. 31 jackpot:

1. Higher ticket prices. The price of a ticket goes up to $2 — from the current $1 — and players may purchase tickets for up to 14 consecutive draws. Basic tickets for Powerball have been $2 each since Jan. 15, 2012.

Multipliers of lower-tier prizes on both games remain at $1.

2. Bigger starting jackpots. Mega Millions' grand prize will begin at $40 million instead of $15 million. That's the amount that Powerball has had in place since Oct. 7, 2015.

3. Longer odds. To win the big prize that is drawn at 11 p.m. ET every Tuesday and Friday, players must match five white balls from 1 to 70 and one Mega Ball number from 1 to 25.

The new design of the game decreases the number of white balls from 75 but increases the number of red balls by 10, so the odds of winning the jackpot increase from 1 in almost 259 million to 1 in about 303 million. Overall, the chance of winning any prize will go from 1 in 15 to 1 in 24 with the changes.

4. Better chances to win $1 million. The update will make it easier for players to win the game’s second-tier $1 million prize for matching five white balls — 1 in 12.6 million vs. the present 1 in 18.5 million, according to the New York Gaming Commission.

Other secondary prizes will have higher dollar amounts in the updated game: $10,000 for matching four white balls and the Mega Ball, an increase of $5,000 but longer odds; $200for matching three white balls and the Mega Ball, an increase of $150 with better odds; $10 for matching either three white balls (better odds) or two white balls and the Mega Ball (longer odds), an increase of $5; $4 for matching one white ball and the Mega Ball, an increase of $2 with longer odds; $2 for matching the Mega Ball, an increase of $1 with longer odds.

5. New option. In six states, a player will be able wager $3 for two entries to win the game's jackpot. The tickets will not be eligible for any other prize level, and players won't be able to customize their numbers.

Initially, Mega Millions games in Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas will offer the Just the Jackpot option. Other lottery commissions will be able to offer it in the future.

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When Powerball changed its game in October 2015, the odds of winning its grand prize rose to 1 in more than 292 million. But those record-breaking jackpots grabbed attention and the public's pocketbooks, in some cases at the expense of Mega Millions.

In New York, $285 million of the state $7.7 billion in lottery sales came from Mega Millions in its fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, the second lowest amount from the game in five fiscal years. Its sales were 3% of the state's total lottery revenue vs. 3.6% or $349 million from Powerball.

In New Jersey, the lottery failed to meet its financial obligations to the state in 2014 and 2015, even after partnering with Northstar Lottery Group in 2013 that had promised to send at least $1.42 billion in additional income back to New Jersey. Mega Millions brought in $144.4 million in sales, 4.4% of the $3.3 billion in total lottery ticket sales, in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016, vs. $286 million, 8.7%, for Powerball.

In Michigan, $118.7 million of its $3.4 billion in lottery sales came from Mega Millions in its fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2016, about 3.8% of all lottery sales; Powerball brought in $199 million or 6.4% of sales.

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(In all three states, scratch-off instant tickets were the biggest piece of the lottery pie, 41% in New York, 57% in New Jersey and 37% in Michigan.)

Mega Millions started as the The Big Game in August 1996 with six member states. The game grew, becoming Mega Millions in May 2002.

Mega Millions now is played in 44 states — excluding Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah — plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Justina Leverich of Garfield, N.J., said she will play Mega Millions but only when a group of friends or co-workers enter.

"If they all win, I don’t want to be left out," Leverich said. "I want to win enough that I can be more comfortable but not enough that it will change who you are."

Contributing: Detroit Free Press; Matt Kadosh and Joshua Jongsma, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record. Follow David P. Willis on Twitter: @dpwillis732

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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