Officials hope the game will attract players lost when a smoking ban takes effect
In January, the Oregon Lottery will tread into territory dominated by schools, churches and other charitable causes: the raffle.
Tickets will be $10 each — the priciest yet for a single lottery ticket in Oregon — for a chance to win $1 million, as well as a number of $20,000 and $100 prizes. Unlike other lottery gambling, sales will be limited to 250,000 tickets.
"We sell a limited amount of tickets, so the odds of winning are great," says Mary Loftin, public affairs manager for the Oregon Lottery.
At least 19 other states have pitched the game as an easier way for players to win a large jackpot. Results have been mixed.
In Oregon, lottery officials say the new game is part of a multi-pronged plan to attract players and keep making money for the state — especially at a time when a state smoking ban set to start in January is expected to drive down profits from video lottery.
Pennsylvania's lottery was the first to hold a raffle in 2005. Most states have million-dollar jackpots with $20 tickets.
Michigan will launch its ninth lottery raffle next month, said Andi Brancato, spokeswoman for the Michigan Lottery. The "Super Raffle," as it's called, has two $2 million jackpots. Tickets are $50 each.
Even at that price, there are plenty of players. Tickets for the high-stakes raffle when it debuted last year sold out in 21/2 days, she said.
"You know exactly what the odds are," Brancato said, "you know how many prizes are going to be handed out."
But the raffle concept hasn't fared well in all places.
Neither of the two raffles held in California sold out, said a spokeswoman. And in Washington state, the lottery sold only 230,000 of 375,000 tickets for its most recent raffle.
Jacque Coe, a spokeswoman for Washington's Lottery, says they don't yet know why tickets failed to sell. Overall, she says, players have liked the odds.
"When they hear that odds are one in 125,000, they say, 'Hey, that's a lot better than a lot of other lottery games I'm playing right now,' " she says.
The chance of winning a Megabucks jackpot is one in 6 million, says Chuck Baumann, spokesman for the Oregon Lottery. The chance of winning the top Powerball prize is one in 146 million.
For the raffle, the odds of winning $1 million are one in 250,000. At least those are better odds than being struck by lightning in a given year. The National Weather Service estimates those odds at one in 700,000.
The raffle could be a big moneymaker for the state, says Bob Whelan, a Portland economist with ECONorthwest.
If the lottery sells all of its tickets, it would keep nearly 50 cents of every dollar wagered, he said. Powerball is the only other game where the state keeps a greater share, he said.