WHY The Powerball Jackpot Is So Damn High

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The rule changes that set the stage for record prizes.

Powerball as a brand has always been premised on a perception of massive jackpots that dwarfed the normal state lottery daily numbers games. Back in the day, it didn’t take much. Back in 1994, the starting jackpot was $150,000. Of course, at that time, a dollar would give you 2 chances to win.

In order to keep interest in the game up, jackpots have been raised over the years, by increasing ticket prices (now $2), raising the starting jackpot and by tinkering with the rules.

Last July, both Powerball and MegaMillions were facing a drop in revenue. In response, the powers that be decided to spice things up a bit. They took a two pronged approach that would make winning the actual jackpot harder, while offering better chances on the smaller prizes.



This was done by increasing the numbers available for the first five numbers from 59 to 69, while the “Powerball” numbers were dropped from 35 to 26. Before, there was a 1 in 32 chance of winning any prize. Those odds have increased to 1 in 25 to win (most likely a $4 prize).

The odds of winning the actual jackpot have gotten a lot lower…but the difference is most likely outside the realm of most human comprehension. It was 1:175,000,000. One in one hundred seventy-five million. Last year we wrote about how everyone responded to hearing those odds.

Now the odds are 1:292,000,000. One in two hundred ninety-two million. There are only two hundred forty-five million adults in the United States…and until last week, most of them don’t play Powerball.

One big upside

The interesting thing about that shift in odds isn’t how it changes an individual’s chances of winning the jackpot. What it does do is really decrease the chances that there will be multiple winners.

Traditionally, big jackpots meant that lots of people would start playing lots of numbers to win…maybe $150 million. The problem was that those better odds meant that there might be 3-4 winners with the same ticket, so the jackpot gets divided up and everyone walks away with what’s now a “traditional” Powerball winning of what turns out to be $30 mil. That’s good money, but it’s not “Don’t you know who the **** I am?!?!” money.

Now with these odds, there are much better chances that if there is a winner, they’ll be the only winner.

That said, your mileage may vary. Odds, by their very nature, aren’t guarantees.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Gaming Correspondent

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