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Iowa joins multi-state Mega Millions lottery

Nov 17, 2009, 7:29 am

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Iowa Lottery

Iowa Lottery players will soon be able to make their first drawing for Mega Millions, a popular multistate game that paid a record $390 million jackpot two years ago.

The Iowa Lottery Board voted unanimously Monday to join Mega Millions, which will give lottery players another opportunity to buy chances for a Powerball-style game, said Iowa Lottery Chief Executive Officer Terry Rich. Ticket sales for Mega Millions are scheduled to start in Iowa on Jan. 31 for a Feb. 2 drawing.

Both games offer the potential for big jackpots for players willing to take the risk of long odds to win.

"This will be fun," Rich said. "It will be like launching Powerball again."

The state panel's action confirmed an agreement in principle reached by lottery directors across the country to cross-sell Powerball and Mega Millions games starting in 2010.

The Mega Millions game comes at a time when the Iowa Lottery is trying to maintain profits to contribute to the state's cash-strapped treasury, which has been hit hard by the national recession.

Between July and September, Iowa Lottery profits were up about 2 percent compared with the same period a year ago. Last fiscal year, the Iowa Lottery contributed about $60 million in proceeds for state government programs.

Iowa Lottery Vice President Mary Neubauer said the addition of Mega Millions to the lotto game mix is expected to generate an annual increase of 8 to 10 percent over Iowa's current Powerball sales, which totaled about $58 million in the past budget year.

Mega Millions is offered in 12 states, including Illinois. The odds of winning the jackpot are about 1 in 175 million.

Powerball is offered in 30 states, including Iowa and all of its neighboring states except Illinois. The odds of capturing Powerball's top prize are about 1 in 195 million.

The record jackpot for Powerball was $365 million, which was won in February 2006 by eight co-workers from a Nebraska meatpacking plant. Mega Millions' biggest jackpot of $390 million was shared by two ticket buyers in Georgia and New Jersey in March 2007.

Powerball drawings are on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Mega Millions drawings are on Tuesday and Friday nights. Each game costs $1 to play.

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