By Nick Sortal
Six of our fellow South Floridians got lucky in January — they all became millionaires playing the lottery.
And that's twice as many big wins as we usually have. Last year about 2.5 winners a month came from Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade counties.
January's newly minted millionaires were: a $12 million Lotto winner in Tamarac, a $3 million scratch-off winner in Miami Beach, a $2 million Mega Money winner in Miami and a $1 million scratch-off winner in Greenacres. Two others are millionaires over time: One scratch-off player won $2,500 a week for life and another won $1,000 a week.
But they aren't the only South Floridians in the money. We've also had two $500,000 winners: a Lauderhill woman who played Monopoly scratch-off and a Miami woman hitting Mega Money.
So why the sudden fortunes? One reason is a switch in games played, said Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia O'Connell. Florida Lotto and Powerball used to attract about 80 percent of South Floridians' lottery spending, she said. Now scratch-offs are evenly split with Florida Lotto and Powerball. Scratch-off games don't often yield multimillion dollar jackpots, but the odds of hitting $1 million are better.
"As a result, we are seeing more winners, increased sales for South Florida businesses and more revenue for the state's education system," O'Connell said.
So what does a numbers guy make of our good luck? Jason Gershman, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at Nova Southeastern University, agrees that six millionaires in a month certainly falls outside the norm.
But he cautions against concepts such as "hot streak" in random events, such as lotteries.
"A 'hot streak' such as this would be an illusion since true hot streaks don't occur mathematically," Gershman said. "No one area or one point of sale would be any hotter or colder than any other.
"There's no mathematical guarantee that more prizes will be paid out over the next few weeks and no mathematical guarantee that fewer prizes will be paid out [to compensate for the recent wins]."
Last year, the entire state produced 100 millionaires: 49 for Powerball, 28 scratch-offs, 10 Mega Money, seven Florida Lotto and six Mega Millions winners. About 30 of them were from Broward, Palm Beach or Miami-Dade counties.
Powerball has not had a South Florida winner since 2012. And Mega Millions, which launched here in May, has yet to yield the top jackpot to a Floridian.
The state keeps 50 percent of ticket sales from Powerball and Florida Lotto. In scratch-offs, players win 70 percent and 30 percent goes to the state. Statewide, scratch-off sales account for about 57 percent of all lottery sales.