Even bigger, unified national game could be next
They are the two "marquee games" in American lotteries: Mega Millions and Powerball. Each lottery state currently has one, but not the other. However, the Mega Millions consortium and Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) have reached an agreement in principle to cross-sell Mega Millions and Powerball in all U.S. lottery jurisdictions.
The agreement means that lotteries from across the United States, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will be able to choose to offer their lottery players both jackpot games via their respective retailers.
States that currently sell Powerball and other lottery products will have the opportunity to begin offering Mega Millions tickets to their players via authorized lottery retailers. As a result of this agreement, Mega Millions states will then be able to offer the Powerball game to complement their existing game mix. No firm date has been set for implementation, although it is hoped that it could be in early 2010. It is also hoped that this could be the beginning of several joint initiatives.
"Lottery Post members have been waiting for this day to come for years," said Todd Northrop of Lottery Post, the Internet's largest community of lottery players.
"This new agreement will not only generate more player excitement, but should increase sales of both games, as players will have access to a mega-jackpot game four days per week, instead of just two."
"For states with computerized drawings, the addition of another game with real ball drawings should also help bring more players back to the ticket counter," Northrop added.
Mega Millions is currently played in 12 states, with a combined population of roughly 160 million. Powerball is currently available from 33 lotteries (31 states plus the District of Columbia and Virgin Islands) with a combined population of roughly 125 million.
At first, both could in effect become national lotteries, if all or nearly all of the existing jurisdictions — including the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands — elect to participate. More than 285 million people live in areas with these lotteries.
But an even bigger game is in the works as well.
"If we develop a national game, it will probably be at a different price point," said Tom Shaheen, president of the Powerball group. "It might be $2. It might be $5. It will be a single game, but we haven't worked out all the details of that yet. The other two games, I believe, would remain intact."
Such a super lottery could happen by next fall, said Chuck Strutt, the Powerball group's executive director.
The hope is to raise more money for state treasuries.
In March, New Jersey Gov. Corzine's proposed budget suggested adding Powerball as a way to raise $10 million more a year for coffers of New Jersey, one of the 12 Mega Millions states. Other states, including Massachusetts, had similar budget assumptions.
One reason revenues should rise is that as jackpots soar, so do ticket sales.
When Mega Millions rolled over last night, its jackpot grew by $30 million, because it was already huge. As a result Friday's jackpot will be $200 million.
(Last night's numbers: 17, 31, 34, 45 and 51, with a Mega Ball of 24. Ten tickets won $250,000.)
Powerball, on the other hand, grew by "only" $5 million on Saturday night, because its jackpot was relatively low. Tonight's annuity jackpot is $30 million.
Increased sales should also mean giant jackpots would rise much faster — and get hit much sooner — perhaps heightening the frenzy.
Small jackpots, on the other hand, might grow more slowly as they wait for the higher payout to reboot.
Such consequences might spur modifications to either or both games, as well as lead to new games.
Although states do not have to opt in, they'll probably be under great pressure to do so, for fearing of losing revenue.
One impetus for the merger came from observations that many people crossed state lines to chase giant jackpots.
If New Jersey, New York and Maryland offered both games and Pennsylvania didn't, Pennsylvania's lottery revenues might fall, as people from neighboring states buy Powerball tickets at home.
Thanks to adamc224 for the tip.