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Mega Millions multi-state lottery to get harder to win in Oct.

May 20, 2013, 6:14 am

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Mega Millions

Come this fall, winning the multi-state Mega Millions lottery jackpot will become even more difficult in the 45 states and jurisdictions that offer the lotto game.

The consortium that operates Mega Millions is upping the odds to 1 in about 258.9 million that someone picks all six numbers right.

The current odds are 1 in about 175.7 million that a person correctly chooses five of 56 numbered white balls and one of 46 gold balls.

The odds will change under a new format for the Oct. 22 drawing. Players will choose five of 75 white balls and one of 15 gold balls.

For comparison, the odds of winning either Powerball or Mega Millions are about the same right now. Powerball is 1 in about 175.2 million.

The goal is to increase sales. Making winning more difficult might seem counter-intuitive to selling more tickets, but big jackpots drive sales.

"The idea is not to keep more money but to raise more money," South Dakota Lottery Commission lottery director Norm Lingle told commissioners. "Unfortunately, the way to make jackpots grow bigger is to make it more difficult to win," he said.

South Dakota and several other states were back-doored into selling Mega Millions in 2010. A national deal reached between Powerball states and Mega Millions states resulted in all of them selling both games. South Dakota was a Powerball state.

The changes coming for Mega Millions will keep the overall odds of winning some prize at 1 in 40, according to Joe Willingham, who oversees sales of lotto and instant ticket games for the South Dakota Lottery.

He said smaller prizes will become easier to win.

The proof of a big jackpot's attraction came in late November 2012 as the Mega Millions top prize surpassed $660 million.

South Dakota sales spiked to $2.4 million and plunged back to the $500,000 neighborhood after the jackpot was won.

"We got an extra million in sales just out of that one draw," Willingham said.

Fifty cents from each dollar spent by Mega Millions players in South Dakota goes to the Mega Millions organization for prizes and administration.

The South Dakota Lottery keeps the other 50 cents to pay retailer commissions and expenses, with profits used for specific purposes of state government.

South Dakota already offered four lotto games — Powerball, Hot Lotto, Wild Card 2 and Dakota Cash — when Mega Millions was added.

As to some commission members wondering whether South Dakota has to accept the change in Mega Millions odds, Willingham said, "We're part of this, or we can't have the game."

Profits from sales of all five lotto games totaled $9.4 million for the 2012 fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012.

Lotto sales through 44 weeks of the 2013 fiscal year stood at $26.17 million. They were at $24.02 million at the 44-week mark a year ago.

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