Lotteries have existed in one form or another for thousands of years. Today almost every country in the world has some style of lottery or lucky draw. Over the past year lottery jackpots in the United States have increased to staggering amounts. We explain how.
The draw for the United States’ Mega Millions lottery on 23 October this year had US$1.537 billion on the line. While initial estimates put it at US$1.6 billion, which would have been a historic figure, the actual amount fell short of the record US$1.586 billion Powerball jackpot in 2016.
Nevertheless, the still monstrous jackpot amount saw lottery fever grip the nation. All over the country people queued at convenience stores and petrol stations to buy a two-dollar ticket and a dream.
According to USA Today, in the lead-up to the jackpot draw 5.7 million lottery tickets were sold in California alone in just half a day.
The winning ticket was sold to someone in South Carolina according to Mega Millions officials. Curiously, whoever beat the one-in-303 million odds to win the grand prize has yet to claim their new fortune as reported by Business Insider.
Why Jackpots Are Getting So Big
Previous lottery jackpots in the States still offered eye-watering amounts of money. The 42nd largest jackpot in US history, the lowest we could find, was worth US$314.3 million.
But the trend of jackpots in the high end of the hundreds of millions, and into the billions – a relatively new trend – is completely by design.
Lottery officials worried that smaller jackpots which were won more regularly would cause people to have ‘lottery fatigue’. People would grow tired of seeing $100 million here and $100 million there and potentially stop playing.
To combat this, they slashed the already astronomical odds of winning, from one-in-259 million to the aforementioned one-in-303 million.
The results? A jackpot that continues to roll over because there are fewer winners and therefore grows bigger and attracts more players. This creates a snowball effect – the larger the jackpot becomes, the more people play, adding even greater odds of no winners for the jackpots.
The consortium that runs the lottery also increased the price of a ticket from one dollar to two dollars. These rule changes were designed to generate both revenue and ‘attention-grabbing jackpots’ said former Mega Millions president Debbie Alford.
Three of the biggest six payouts in Mega Millions history have occurred since the changes were implemented in October 2017.
The rules change has heralded a payout for the lottery consortium as well.
Lottery industry magazine La Fleur’s reported that US lottery sales in fiscal 2018 totalled US$77.7 billion, an increase of US$5 billion dollars from the previous year.
Lotteries can be just a bit of fun for many people. Mega Millions note that the bigger jackpots entice people who rarely play the lottery to buy tickets, which is part of their strategy.
However, the reality uncovered by various studies show that the majority of people in the United States who play the lotteries have low-incomes.
The chance to wipe away all monetary woes with a lucky ticket is a fantasy being sold to vulnerable people, according to Les Bernal the national director of Stop Predatory Gambling.
At the end of the day lotteries are still gambling. If you decide to participate in lotteries, be sure to gamble responsibly and within your means.