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Dual multi-state lottery sales may keep jackpots lower

Jan 11, 2010, 9:34 pm

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Mega Millions / Powerball

New national game at least a year away

When dozens of states start selling both Powerball and Mega Millions lottery tickets for the first time ever, winners may take home jackpots that aren't so mega.

As part of a deal announced last October, the combined sales begin Jan. 31 in 23 of the 31 states and Washington D.C. where Powerball is currently offered, according to Tom Shaheen, president of the Multi-State Lottery Association that operates Powerball. The two different lottery systems have not been sold in the same state before.

But with all the addition players, Shaheen expects the jackpots to fill up quickly, resulting in more winners but lighter takes.

"With more people playing, you have a better chance of someone winning earlier," he said. "There will probably be more jackpot winners over the course of the year, because you've got more players and more number combinations. That's what players keep saying: They want more winners."

As a result, there will be fewer jackpots as high as $300 million, and more of them in the $100 million to $150 million range, according to Shaheen.

Where to buy

The following Powerball states will begin offering Mega Millions tickets at the end of the month: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

New York lottery spokeswoman Jennifer Givner said her state, which sells Mega Millions tickets, will also sell Powerball tickets on Jan. 31. Givner said she could not speak for other unidentified Mega Millions states that will sell Powerball tickets.

Lottery commission representatives in California and Ohio, both Mega Millions states, said they will not be participating in the Powerball cross-over on Jan. 31, but they didn't rule out joining late on.

"We're right in the middle of analyzing whether it would be a good idea to join Powerball," said California lottery spokesman Bill Ainsworth. He said that California already offers a second lottery in addition to Mega Millions, called SuperLotto Plus.

Ohio Lottery spokeswoman Marie Kilbane Seckers said the potential overlap with Powerball is still awaiting approval from the governor and the lottery commissioners.

The return of gigantic payouts

Players with eyes on the larger prize will eventually be able to participate in a national lottery with jackpots that could reach $500 million, Shaheen said.

Tickets for that lottery would cost $2 or $5 each, and would not be available until December or the beginning of 2011.

The current jackpot for Mega Millions is $60 million, with a draw date of Jan. 12. Powerball's current jackpot is $30 million with a draw date of Jan. 13.

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