So get this, California is joining the Mega Millions lottery that Texas joined a couple of years back. But this is going to precipitate a change in game play and up the odds of winning the jackpot from an already-staggering 1 in 131 million to 1 in 176 million. If you think about how many players California adds to the game, this step is necessary to ensure that the jackpot grows week to week, instead of having someone win every week. The high jackpots are the real draw in this game, so they had to do something like this or risk the other states’ players losing interest. This also makes it statistically more likely that we’ll see a half-billion-dollar jackpot at some point, which I’m sure the states feel (because the game corporation sold them on the idea) will be a big draw, no matter how bad the odds are. On the other hand, this combination of adding California and upping the odds makes your odds of winning the Mega Millions at least four times worse than winning the state multi-million-dollar lottery jackpot in most states while simultaneously making it more likely that you’ll end up sharing that jackpot with other winners.
The only reason California is even considering joining Mega Millions in the first place is their budget crisis. Many states have seen revenue drop of in their state lotteries and brought in Mega Millions to fill the gap (since, of course, lottery revenue, which was sold as sort of a bonus revenue stream for state education, is now incorporated right into the education operating budget of the states, so any shortfall causes an immediate budget crisis). So, the question is, will people ignore the increased odds in favor of (presumably) increased jackpots for Mega Millions, or will they be driven back toward state lotteries in droves (this is why states see this kind of gerrymandering of the game as a no-lose for them), or will they continue their trend of lottery apathy (or wising up, or belt-tightening, it’s hard to know what to call it) and simply spend less of their weekly household budgets on lottery tickets?