With around sixty percent of adults playing the lottery every year in states where it is legal and annual lottery ticket sales in the United States reaching $68 billion, it’s safe to say that the lotteries are not only whimsical diversions for many Americans but also hefty sources of revenue for state governments. But what are the odds of winning the lottery? This article explores various lottery games played in the United States, how they are played, and the odds of winning.
Lotteries in the United States
Draw games, scratcher games and video lottery terminal (VLT) games are basic types of lotteries played in the United States. Some lotteries are sold across multiple states and are referred to as multistate or multi-jurisdictional lotteries, while other lotteries, state lotteries, available only within specific states.
In addition to multistate lotteries, 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands offer jurisdiction-specific lotteries. To discover the odds of the lottery games offering in a specific state or jurisdiction, see the list of state lotteries provided by the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries here or the list provided on the USA.gov website here.
Several lottery games are played across state lines in more than one state or territory. The Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), a non-profit association of member states, administers these games, which include: Powerball, Mega Millions, Hot Lotto, Wild Card 2, 2by2, and Mega Hits.
The first Powerball drawing was held on April 22, 1992. All U.S. states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington D.C. sell $2 Powerball plays, except: NV, UT, WY, MS, AL, HI, and AK.
Powerball drawings take place every Wednesday and Saturday night. Five white balls are drawn out of a container with 59 white balls and one red ball is drawn out of a container with 35 red balls.
How to Play Powerball
Purchase a ticket before the cut off time of one of weekly draws, which are held Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Choose five unique numbers from 1 to 59 to match the white balls, in any order and choose one number from 1 to 35 to match the red Powerball. The jackpot is won by matching all five white balls, in any order, and the red Powerball.
Initially called the Big Game, Mega Millions began on August 31, 1996 and its first drawing occurred on September 6, 1996. All U.S. states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington D.C. sell $1 Mega Millions plays, except: NV, UT, WY, MS, AL, HI, and AK. Mega Millions drawings take place every Tuesday and Friday evening.
How to Play Mega Millions
Purchase a ticket before the cut off time of one of weekly draws, which are held Tuesday and Friday evenings. Choose five unique numbers from 1 to 75, and choose one number from 1 to 15 or select Easy Pick. The jackpot is won by matching all six winning numbers.
Infographic: The Odds of Winning the Lottery Jackpot
$1 Hot Lotto plays are sold in Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia. Hot Lotto numbers are drawn using a random number generator, with drawings taking place Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The Hot Lotto all cash jackpot tax withholdings are paid by the lottery. The jackpot starts at $1 million in cash and increases by a minimum of $50,000 every time the jackpot is not won.
How to Play Hot Lotto
Purchase a ticket before the cut off time of one of weekly draws, which are held Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Choose five white numbers from 1 to 47, and choose one Hot Ball number from 1 to 19. The jackpot is won by matching all six winning numbers.
Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota sell Wild Card tickets, each with 2 plays for $1. Drawings take place Wednesday and Saturday evenings, wherein five numbers ranging from 1 to 33 are drawn and one of 16 face cards are drawn using a random number generator. The grand prize is won by matching the five numbers and the Wild Card.
How to Play Wild Card
Purchase a ticket before the cut off time of one of weekly draws, which are held Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Choose five numbers from 1 to 33, and choose one of the 16 face cards for the Wild Card.
Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota sell 2by2 tickets for $1. Drawings take place 7 day per week at 9:30 pm CST of two red numbers and two white numbers. The 2by2 grand prize amount of $22,000 is won by matching all four numbers.
How to Play 2by2
Purchase a ticket before the 8:58 p.m. CST cutoff. Choose two red numbers from 1 to 26 and two white numbers from 1 to 26.
MegaHits can be played in Delaware, Ohio, Rhode Island and West Virginia. MegaHits began in July 2011. This multistate video lottery game replaces the Ca$hola game. Featuring progressive jackpot levels, the cash grand prize jackpot begins at $100,000.
How to MegaHits
Find a participating venue and make a qualifying wager at a MegaHits video lottery terminal.
Image Credit: Flickr/Robert S. Donovan
Article Last Updated: June 12, 2014