What Are the Odds of Winning the Lottery?

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?Image: Mega Millions Lottery Ticket 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.

State Lotteries

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.

Multistate Lotteries

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.

Powerball

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.

The Odds of Winning Powerball
In addition to the grand prize, there are other prizes that are also awarded depending on how many white balls are matched, with or without a match of the red Powerball.

  • There are nine ways to win Powerball.
  • The odds of winning the Powerball grand prize are 1 in 175,223,510
  • The overall odds of winning a Powerball prize are 1 in 31.85
  • The Power Play add-on feature of the Powerball game can be purchased for $1 and allows the player multiply the original prize amount. The odds of a 5X Power Play (the original prize times 5) and a 4X Power Play are each 1 in 10. The odds of a 3X Power Play are 1 in 3.33 and the odds of a 2X Power Play are 1 in 2.

Odds are based on a $2 play and are rounded to two decimal places.
The MUSL warns that prize size may be reduced in the event that “an extremely popular number is drawn and there is not enough money in the prize pools or reserves to cover it.”

Mega Millions

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.

The Odds of Winning Mega Millions
In addition to the grand prize, there are other prizes that are also awarded depending on how many winning numbers are matched.

  • There are nine ways to win Mega Millions.
  • The odds of winning the Mega Millions grand prize are 1 in 258,890,850
  • The overall odds of winning a Mega Millions prize are 1 in 14.71
  • The Megaplier add-on feature of the Mega Millions game can be purchased for $1 and allows the player multiply the original prize amount. The odds of a 5X Megaplier number (the original prize times 5) being drawn are 1 in 2.5. The odds of 4X Megaplier number being drawn are 1 in 5. The odds of a 3X Megaplier number being drawn are 1 in 3.75 and the odds of a 2X Megaplier number being drawn are 1 in 7.5.

Odds are based on a $1 play and are rounded to two decimal places.

Infographic: The Odds of Winning the Lottery Jackpot

Infographic: The Odds of Winning the Lottery Jackpot

Hot Lotto

$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.

The Odds of Winning Hot Lotto
In addition to the grand prize, there are other prizes that are also awarded depending on how many winning numbers are matched.

  • There are nine ways to win Hot Lotto.
  • The odds of winning the Hot Lotto grand prize are 1 in 29,144,841
  • The overall odds of winning a Hot Lotto prize are 1 in 17.22
  • The Hot Lotto Sizzler add-on feature of the Hot Lotto game can be purchased for $1 and allows the player to triple the original prize amount (except the grand prize).

Odds are based on a $1 play and are rounded to two decimal places.

Wild Card

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.

The Odds of Winning Wild Card
In addition to the grand prize, there are other prizes that are also awarded depending on how many winning numbers are matched and whether or not the Wild Card is matched.

  • There are nine ways to win Wild Card.
  • The odds of winning the Wild Card grand prize are 1 in 1,898,688
  • The overall odds of winning a Wild Card prize are 1 in 6.67

Odds are based on a $1 play and are rounded to two decimal places.

2By2

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.

The Odds of Winning 2By2
In addition to the grand prize, there are other prizes that are also awarded depending on how many winning numbers are matched.

  • There are eight ways to win 2by2.
  • The odds of winning the 2by2 grand prize are 1 in 105,625
  • The overall odds of winning a 2by2 prize are 1 in 3.59
  • Now with the 2by2 Tuesday, by purchasing multi-draws in increments of 7 draws a player can double any prizes won on Tuesday, including the grand prize.

Odds are based on a $1 play.

MegaHits

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.

The Odds of Winning MegaHits
The odds of winning the MegaHits grand prize on a single qualifying play vary depending on the qualifying wager required on the specific participating machine on which the wager is made.

Image Credit: Flickr/Robert S. Donovan

Article Last Updated: June 12, 2014

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *