State to display odds of winning

Nov 10, 2003, 4:51 am (Post a comment)

Tennessee Lottery

When Tennesseans start playing the lottery next year, they'll know something dreamers in many other states don't: the odds of winning.

State law doesn't require the odds to be advertised, but Tennessee lottery chief Rebecca Paul believes it's good business to do so.

"Every place I've ever been has prominently displayed it in brochures, at point of sale, where people get their play slips, where they fill them out," Paul said. "It's important to have it there and ready and available for anybody who wants it."

Paul said the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation likely will make odds available online and in some cases will print the odds on the tickets themselves.

But the odds aren't known now because the games to be offered haven't been selected. Instant tickets are expected to go on sale by Feb. 10, with online games launched no more than 60 days later.

Paul said the odds are always well-known in highly publicized, multimillion-dollar drawings such as Powerball and Mega Millions.

"Whenever the jackpot gets really high, there is not a TV or newspaper story written that doesn't point out that, by the way, the odds of winning are 1 in 130 million," she said.

Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, chairman of the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus, said people need to know up front that winning the lottery is a long shot.

"I don't think people really relate to how huge the odds are against them winning," he said. "People need to know that it's like throwing their money into a garbage can. If the Lottery Corp. doesn't make the odds clear to the public, I will push for legislation to do that."

"Frontline," a PBS news show, recently calculated that the odds of winning California's Super Lotto were 1 in 18 million. That means if a California player purchased 50 lottery tickets each week, he or she would win the jackpot once every 5,000 years.

"Frontline" determined that a California jackpot lottery player has a better chance of being dealt a royal flush on the opening hand in a poker game (1 in 649,739), being killed by terrorists while traveling abroad (1 in 650,000) or getting struck by lightning (1 in 30,000).

Sen. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, the sponsor of the legislation that created the lottery, said he doesn't think it's important to post the odds.

"It's a waste of a sign and a regulation," he said. "It's a lark. You know it's a long shot. You have a little fantasy. You think about winning."

Jackson Sun

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