Feb 25, 2006, 8:30 am
One day you're in, and the next day you're out.
Like Carrot Top and Ugg boots, the Virginia Lottery's Lotto South has fallen in the latter category.
Today will be the last drawing for the nearly 5-year-old game with roots dating to 1990. If no one wins the final $4.5 million jackpot, all secondary prizes from $5 to $1,000 will be doubled.
Virginia Lottery officials say many of today's lottery players have turned their backs on Lotto South in favor of multistate games such as Mega Millions and Powerball that seduce with huge jackpots. Powerball created a frenzy last weekend with a record $365 million jackpot. Mega Millions offered an alluring $212 million in Friday's drawing.
Because these games are played in several states (Mega Millions, for instance, is played in Virginia and 11 other states) they draw more players, meaning a higher jackpot than with games sponsored by a single state or just a few — as well as more challenging odds. Chance of winning the jackpot in Mega Millions is 1 in 176 million.
Lotto South, according to the Virginia Lottery's 2005 annual report, went from a high of selling 86.7 million tickets in 2002 to 66.6 million in 2005. Virginia shares Lotto South with Georgia and Kentucky.
Hazel Garrison passed on a Lotto South ticket at the Quick-Ette in Fincastle this week after cashier Sharon Painter told her the night's jackpot was a mere $4 million.
"That's not enough," said Garrison, who works at Koyo Steering Systems USA.
Lotto South will be replaced with Win for Life, beginning Wednesday. Instead of a minimum $2 million jackpot, winners get $1,000 per week for the rest of their lives.
Win for Life players choose six numbers, from one to 42. The Free Ball is a seventh number drawn from remaining numbers that helps to determine lower-level prizes, which range from $2 to $52,000.
Virginia Lottery officials hope Win for Life will foster Mega Millions-level excitement while giving players better odds at taking the top prize, said Virginia Lottery spokeswoman Jennifer Mullen. Odds of winning the top prize in Win for Life will be 1 in 5.2 million, compared with 1 in 14 million for Lotto South.
The Virginia Lottery selected Win For Life as its new game after working with focus groups. "They really liked the idea of a supplemental income," Mullen said.
The idea of winning a huge jackpot prize may sound like a universal dream, but some players find it intimidating, explained Jill Vaughan, communication director for the Virginia Lottery.
Stories in the media have featured jackpot winners telling stories of being beleaguered by requests for money, mismanaging their funds and watching marriages disintegrate over money arguments.
With Win for Life, players probably don't risk that situation.
"This isn't a life-changing prize," Vaughan said. "It's a nice cushion."
As with Lotto South, the Virginia Lottery will partner with Georgia and Kentucky for Win for Life.
Ken Bandy of Fincastle bought a Lotto South ticket for Wednesday's drawing. He's a regular player, but wasn't traumatized to hear the game will soon be history.
"I never won nothing anyway," he said.
James Kyle, a salesman for Virginia Truck Center, regularly plays Lotto South with the same two sets of numbers. He stays up to watch the nightly lottery drawing on television, a ritual he calls "his little thrill."
But the death of Lotto South won't be a big whoop for Kyle either. He plans to play the same two sets of numbers with Win for Life.
About 13,500 people had subscriptions to Lotto South, meaning they paid in advance for numerous lottery drawings, according to Mullen. They've received the option of transferring their subscription to a Mega Millions subscription or receiving a refund for their remaining plays.
For most gambling addicts the Virginia Lottery's decision to replace Lotto South with Win for Life won't help to nip their problem, according to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
He compared it to the idea that an alcoholic will give up drinking if a favorite brand of vodka is discontinued.
"Generally the deeper problems people have, the less they're influenced by game design," Whyte said.
Lotto South evolved from Virginia's pick-six Lotto game, which began in 1990.
In 2005, the Virginia Lottery turned over more than $423 million for education.
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