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Is a $2 Powerball ticket too much?

The price of a regular ticket is doubling next week, and the chances of winning will improve a tiny bit. Will you still play?

By Karen Datko Jan 9, 2012 7:12PM

Starting Sunday, Jan. 15, a regular Powerball ticket will cost you $2, double the previous price. But the people behind the 42-state, $3 billion-a-year lottery say more players will now have the chance to become millionaires.


It's a "birthday makeover" as Powerball turns 20 this year. But the question is: Will people still want to play after a price hike of 100%?


Here are other changes to expect once the $1 Powerball passes into history with Saturday night's drawing:

  • The minimum jackpot -- matching all five white-ball numbers plus the red Powerball -- will be $40 million, up from $20 million.
  • Matching five numbers (your Powerball pick was a dud) will get you a cool $1 million, up from $200,000 now.
  • Your odds of winning the jackpot will also increase because the choice of Powerball numbers is being scaled back -- from 39 to 35. (Regular white balls will still number 1 through 59.) "That will raise the odds of winning from 1 in 192 million to 1 in 175 million," The Associated Press says. That's still just slightly better than a snowball's chance in the underworld.
  • The overall odds of winning something will also increase -- from 1 in 35 to 1 in 31.8 -- not that you're playing to win the $4 minimum prize (up from the current $3).
  • Power Play will also change. "Power Play prizes become set prizes, no longer dependent upon a multiplier," the Multi-State Lottery Association says. Rather, pay that extra dollar -- now you're up to $3 for one ticket -- and a $4 prize becomes $12, a $7 prize is $14, $100 in winnings becomes $200, $10,000 becomes $40,000 (!) and the $1 million prize for matching five white balls doubles to $2 million (!!). The Arizona Lottery has a chart that explains how that works.

The association, a nonprofit owned by the various state lotteries, expects Powerball purchases to drop off at first, until jackpots climb, and they will even faster than they do now if no one wins. "The current game is designed for an average jackpot of $141 million. … (T)he math for the new design says the average will be $255 million," the association says. Post continues below.

How's this going over so far? Not too well. Some examples:

  • An online poll on Myrtle Beach Online showed 72% saying they won't play the Powerball for $2, last time we checked.
  • Barb Caffrey, a blogger and occasional Powerball player, thinks the lottery people are being insensitive by raising the price right now. She wrote:
So if I can see this new "fee schedule" as a non-starter as a regular lottery player who's spent more than her share of cash on the Powerball over the years, why can't the Powerball execs?
Oh, yeah. They must not have been hit by the horrible economy, so they actually think there's enough money out there to do something like this.
  • Don't be fooled by the hype about a new and improved Powerball, John Hood of the conservative John Locke Foundation told the News & Observer of North Carolina:
The lottery is inherently a game for suckers. If you're making it slightly less exploitative, don't expect anybody to congratulate you.

So, what are your possible options if you're unhappy?

  • Quit this nonsense. Sure, you can't win if you don't play (and play and play). But you most likely won't win the jackpot anyway. Playing the lottery is not a retirement plan. You're wasting money.
  • Switch to the Mega Millions game, still just a buck to play and, like Powerball, available in 42 states. The Multi-State Lottery Association is OK with that. "For those players who prefer a $1 big jackpot game, Mega Millions is a great option," its website says.
  • Cut back on Power Play. AP says 40% of players in Oklahoma choose Power Play, so some people are obviously used to spending that extra dollar. 

We suspect people who like to play Powerball will quickly get over the new price point. It's not like a new debit card fee or bill-pay convenience fee, where you're expecting more value when the price goes up. Whether a lottery ticket is $1 or $2, you can't reasonably expect any return on that money. 


The lottery folks seem confident you'll continue to play, based on current consumer practices. Says an interesting and fun Powerball FAQ page at the association website (which answers all kinds of questions like "Is there a secret to improve your chance of winning Powerball?" and "Do Powerball tickets expire?"):

Finally, after 20 years at the same price and after watching scratch ticket sales take off with $2, $3, $5, $10, $20, and even $50 tickets, we are going to make the big jump.

If you play Powerball, what's your action plan?


More on MSN Money:

Jan 10, 2012 7:23AM

I won't play the powerball anymore.  I have said for a long time, they should spread the money out a little, and have many winners instead of one person winning more money than they could ever possibly spend. 


To raise the price is a big mistake.

Jan 9, 2012 8:26PM

Their math is significantly off.   While the odds per ticket may have gone up....

The odds per dollar have gone significantly down.


Previously $2 would buy you a 2 in 35 chance (5.7%).  Now $2 only buys a 1 in 31.5 chance (3.2%)


Sounds like you are paying more for a lot less.

Jan 9, 2012 10:15PM

"The odds of winning went up from 1 in 192 million to 1 in 175 million,"

"That's still just slightly better than a snowball's chance in the underworld."

Those odds are not worth spending $2.00 for. I don't like the fact that all of the ticket machines are tied into the headquarters computer system. They know what numbers have been played before they do the drawing. Within 15-20 minutes after the drawing they know if and exactly where the winning ticket was purchased, they also know where and how many tickets were sold that were not jackpot winning tickets, and how much the total payout is going to be.


"The current game is designed for an average jackpot of $141 million. …
The math for the new design says the average will be $255 million,"

I don't know about the rest of you folks, but for me, i would be happy with a 1 or 2 million

jackpot winning. I don't need to live extravagantly, just enough to be comfortable and not have to worry about living expenses for the rest of my life. 


Jan 9, 2012 8:23PM
I have been buying two powerball tickets each week for years, I don't mind spending a couple bucks a week for a dream but in these times four bucks is too much, the most I ever won is eight dollars once, so I will now look for a new game. The greed is getting to be too much, I remember when here in Maine when they first started they had 30 numbers and it was hit almost every two weeks, they made a lot of millionaires, then they got greedy and had 36 numbers and they failed to sell the million and a half dollars a week as with 30 numbers, now they have tri state mega bucks and 56 numbers, now it takes a month and a half to accumulate a million dollars, These people have no clue, If powerball only had 32 numbers they would sell at least 50 million dollars a week and would make an awful lot of millionaires in a years time, It is just greed among the Bureaucrats that run lotteries.
Jan 9, 2012 11:01PM
I must have missed the lesson in economics class:  When times are tough RAISE prices.  I think the post office and  Netflix are great examples.  The few times I played Powerball, it was easy enough to peel off a buck for a quick pick.  Now I'd have to peel trwice and you can bet I'll also think twice.  Witrin a few months, this whole thing will flop and by that time a sufficient number of previous customers will have been alienated.
Jan 9, 2012 8:07PM
Guessing Megamillions will have a boost in revenue, only time power ball will see two dollars is for the big money plays.
Jan 10, 2012 6:48AM
I wrote to the lottery ,years ago to have more winners etc. .if the jackpot is 240 mil.. instead of one person winning have 240 winners.  they stated the sales would go down.  This is not how to you help the ecomony.  We need a lot more winners to help the flow of money.
Jan 9, 2012 10:12PM
Lotteries: Every time you don't play, you win.
Jan 10, 2012 2:30AM
The lottery is a rip-off and a scam, unless you win.  Last but maybe most importantly, I have not seen any of this money improve schools and education like it was promised to.
Jan 10, 2012 6:05AM

at $1 you could buy 2 numbers (doubling your infinitesimally small chance to win)

at $2 for the same money you only have 1 chance to win, while they did improve your odds they didn't double your odds, so you actually have less odds of wining for the the same amount of money.

Jan 9, 2012 10:35PM
looks like greed at it's finest...I'll play megamillions more...

Power Ball should pay out 500k to 80 winners per week, not grow to 200+mill. Spread the winnings to hundreds so that they may pay off their bills and spend it. 

Jan 10, 2012 12:37AM
Screw the lottery. Let them find out like Netflix that we are not going to put up with their whopping price increase.
Jan 9, 2012 8:32PM
I can only answer for myself.  And the answer is "no", I won't be buying any $2 Powerball tickets.  I know a rat when I smell one.  This is all about greed and profit.  I'll switch my habit to the local State lottery.  I may have been born, but not yesterday.
Jan 10, 2012 9:09AM

What they OUGHT to do is break up the prizes once they get high enough, and have more drawings for a single ticket.


Seriously, what would you rather have, one chance to win $100 million, or FIVE chances - on the same ticket -  to win $20 million?  Either way, you're set for life.

Jan 10, 2012 7:59AM
i will never never buy another ticket again.this is all **** the man is trying to exploit the people again and again.happy powerball.i used to buy $5.00 tickets a week and will never buy another just saved me alot of money.choke on your increase and rot in hell all of you.....
Jan 9, 2012 8:37PM
Here in NJ we have Mega Million, which is still ONE dollar and the powerball odds for top prize is 195 million to one, where Mega million is 175 to one.  See you around Powerball!
Jan 10, 2012 7:07AM
There were 19 of us in a lottery pool, only one wanted to continue.  It seems to me by increasing the price of a ticket to two dollars made 18 of us realize, why were we even spending ten to twenty dollars for ten draws?  192 million to one and/or 175 million to one - have any of you won the jackpot lottery lately, If so, you were lucky beyond all of our dreams.  Get out, stay out, save your money for this coming Christmas!.
Jan 9, 2012 8:30PM
This is greed. Twice as much for a ticket but not an equal increase in odds or payouts.
Mega Millions may be a better deal. 
Jan 10, 2012 7:35AM
Marketing crew blew this one. Nope! When it goes up, I'm out. Too much to ask for my money. Again, everyone thinks "The People" will keep paying". No mas fools.
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