Des Moines, Iowa Powerball lottery organizers are betting that bigger jackpots will entice more people to play, but gamblers are going to have to dig deeper into their wallets to try their luck.
Tickets for the multistate game are doubling in price to $2 beginning Jan 15. While the odds of winning one of the game’s giant jackpots also are improving, those in charge of the lottery are gambling that people are willing to pay more for the hope of becoming a millionaire in a down economy.
“With the price of everything else going up, there’s not much you can get for a dollar anymore,” said 28-year-old Ryan Raker, of Des Moines, Iowa, who buys a ticket once a month. He says he’ll probably play less frequently now.
Lotteries have long sold regular people on the hope of becoming rich quick by simply picking a lucky combination of numbers. Some play loved ones’ birthdays or anniversaries in the hope that fate may point them in the direction of a jackpot. Selling that hope is easy; less so is predicting consumers’ sensitivity to price changes.
Powerball’s move follows the model of scratch ticket games, which once were all $1 but now are offered at higher prices with the chance for bigger prizes.
The evolution of scratch tickets and the creation of families of games that offer tickets at different prices has proven successful across the country, said Rebecca Hargrove, president of the Tennessee Lottery. Scratch games like Win for Life in Illinois, Jumbo Bucks in Tennessee and the Crosswords game in Iowa have all been successful, Hargrove said.
“The more choices you gave players the higher the sales were,” Hargrove said. “A family of games at multiple price points created the most excitement. Once those kinds of games were introduced we saw a dramatic increase in sales.”
Lottery officials believe increasing the price of the game will make it more attractive to players, said Terry Rich, spokesman for the West Des Moines-based Multistate Lottery Association, which runs Powerball.
“People like variety,” Rich said. “We’re repackaging and freshening up the product and enriching the product.”
Powerball is the big fish of the various lottery games states offer, and typically has some of the biggest payouts. There are nine ways to win the game, from a $3 prize for matching the Power Ball number to various payouts for different combinations of winning numbers.
Odds of winning are improving because of changes the game is making in the numbers players can choose. The number of Power Ball numbers to choose from will decrease from 39 to 35. That will raise the odds of winning from 1 in 192 million to 1 in 175 million.
Picking the right numbers will have a bigger payoff: The starting jackpot is rising from $20 to $40 million. The amount won for matching all five numbers but not the Power Ball will increase from $200,000 to $1 million.