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Move over, Powerball: Mega Millions boosting jackpot for bigger sales

The Mega Millions jackpot for Friday will be $30 million for the last time. Beginning Saturday, the game will have a starting jackpot of $40 million, with longer odds and higher ticket prices.
The Mega Millions jackpot for Friday will be $30 million for the last time. Beginning Saturday, the game will have a starting jackpot of $40 million, with longer odds and higher ticket prices.

Mega Millions is changing the game, again: Starting Saturday, the jackpot will be bigger and will climb faster, because the odds will be longer. Bigger jackpots mean bigger sales, according to Kentucky Lottery officials.

Here are five changes coming to the game:

▪  The price will double. Tickets will go from $1 to $2, same as the basic Powerball ticket.

▪  The starting jackpot will be bigger. Starting Saturday, it will be $40 million, up from $15 million.

▪  The odds will be longer for the big jackpot. That makes it harder to win but means that the jackpot will grow faster and could hit $1 billion for the first time. To win the big prize, players will have to match five numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega Ball number from 1 to 25. The Mega Ball number had been from 1 to 15.

▪  The odds will be better for lower-level prizes. Players will now have a 1 in 24 chance of winning some prize, meaning even if you don’t get the big one, you might win $1 million. Players used to have to match five numbers from 1 to 75, so the odds are slightly better of winning second-tier prizes.

▪  Just the Jackpot. If you don’t want anything but the jackpot, you can now play that way too. There’s a new $3 ticket called Just the Jackpot that gives you two entries for, as the name implies, just the jackpot.

Kentucky Lottery president and CEO Tom Delacenserie said in a statement that the changes should make for some big Mega Millions jackpots, as similar changes did for Powerball, which lengthened its odds in October 2015.

“The jackpots will grow faster overall, which will be attractive to many players who wait for big numbers. It used to be a $10 million Lotto Kentucky jackpot was news. Now we don’t see players start to really engage with the big multi-state games until the jackpot reaches around $200 million. These changes will help the game achieve those heights faster.”

Mega Millions’ biggest jackpot was $656 million in March 2012, compared to Powerball, which had a $1.6 million prize in January 2016 and a $758.7 million jackpot in August.

But Mega Millions now could eclipse Powerball: The odds of winning the Mega Millions big jackpot will now be 1 in 302.6 million, compared to Powerball’s 1 in 292.2 million.

Those big prizes drive big sales: According to the Kentucky Lottery Corp., first-quarter lottery sales were a record $255.9 million. The 8.5 percent jump over the same quarter last year were driven by millions more Powerball tickets sold for the August lottery.

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