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Mega Millions making changes aimed at luring more players

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, at 9:19 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, at 9:33 a.m.

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Mark Adams buys lottery tickets twice a week to build dreams.

“Like the early settlers of the West, they risked their life savings and their very lives for the mere chance of greater opportunity,” said the 52-year-old Wichita resident. “I think it is inherent for Americans to dream.”

Mega Millions is about to give Adams and other players all over Kansas and the country a chance to dream even bigger. Following the lead of Powerball, which changed its rules to boost jackpots last year, Mega Millions will raise its initial top prizes and enhance the odds of winning lesser prizes starting Oct. 22.

The initial Mega Millions prize will rise from $12 million to $15 million. Players will choose the first five numbers from a set of 75 numbers instead of the current 56, so the chances of winning the jackpot will decline significantly, from 1 in 175 million to 1 in 259 million.

But players will get to choose one number from a set of 15 for the Mega Ball, instead of the current 46, thus improving their odds of winning smaller amounts.

The prize for matching five numbers will rise from $250,000 to $1 million, while a multiplier option will be expanded to allow players to win up to $5 million without matching all six numbers.

The minimum rollover between drawings will be $5 million.

The last Mega Millions drawing under the current rules will be Friday.

Mega Millions and Powerball, both of which are played in Kansas, have made the changes to overcome jackpot fatigue, in which jackpots – no matter how high – start to seem routine to players.

“If you got to $50 million, it was big deal. That number is getting higher and higher before people start paying attention,” said Sally Lunsford, public affairs director for the Kansas Lottery.

Powerball changed its rules last year to entice players with better odds, but Powerball also raised its ticket price from $1 to $2. The cost of a Mega Millions ticket will remain at $1.

Powerball’s move worked. Jackpots have soared. Last month, a $399.4 million jackpot, won by a single ticket in South Carolina, was the third Powerball jackpot in four months to climb into the $400 million range.

States benefit from the changes. Revenue from the sales of Powerball tickets in Kansas climbed from $37.7 million in 2012 to $52 million this year, a 38 percent increase, Lunsford said.

The changes keep games fresh for players, she said.

“You want to give players a reason to be excited and keep those jackpots going up quickly,” Lunsford said.

And keep them lining up at convenience stores to buy tickets, which Adams is likely to do.

“That’s a really good idea,” he said of the Mega Millions changes.

More people in Kansas play Powerball than Mega Millions, in part out of habit. Powerball has been in Kansas since 1988, when it was called Lotto America. The name was changed to Powerball in 1992.

Kansas didn’t join Mega Millions until 2010.

But a Kansas resident won a third of the $656 million Mega Millions drawing in March 2012, the largest jackpot ever.

“There are a lot of people who play both games,” Lunsford said. “If you’re not playing both, players may decide on the $1 ticket, or they’re going to play whichever game pays the higher jackpot.”

Adams said he doesn’t need a huge jackpot to play. He usually buys tickets for other lottery games played in Kansas, notably Hot Lotto, which have smaller payouts but better odds.

“Who needs $300 million?” he said. “If I can win even $1 million or $5 million, I’m going to be happy as stink.”

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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