Following a unanimous vote by a five-member quorum of the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), which convened on April 24, the Empire State has approved major changes to the national Mega Millions lottery.
Beginning on October 31 of this year, the price of a Mega Millions ticket will double from $1 to $2. Additionally, a series of adjustments to the gameplay rules will see the odds of winning a jackpot drop sharply, moving from the current 1 in 258.9 million chance to 1 in 302.6 million.
According to transcripts of the Commissioners’ meeting, the New York Lottery was compelled to consider such reforms by the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) – the consortium of lottery operators which includes 31 states, along with Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
By linking the various statewide lotteries within its purview, the MUSL is able to operate massive lottos like Powerball and Mega Millions on a nearly nationwide basis.
During the April 24 meeting, members of the NYSGC listened as a moderator introduced the Mega Millions issue by outlining the MUSL’s objectives:
“The New York lottery is a member of the consortium of state and territorial lotteries throughout the United States, which operate the Mega Millions and Powerball games. The multi-state consortium has resolved to modify the Mega Millions game matrix, which sets forth win probabilities and prizes.
Other rule changes approved by the consortium are intended to create larger jackpot amounts.
Should the commission choose not to adopt the consortium’s rule changes, the lottery would be required to eliminate Mega Millions from its game portfolio.”
Edmund Burns, general counsel for the New York Gaming Commission, issued a memo to lotto operators informing them of the decision. In the memo, Burns cited reduced sales of $280.8 million for Mega Millions tickets in New York, while echoing the sentiment that the state would be forced to forego participation unless the changes were authorized:
“Without these rules changes, the Division of Lottery would need to remove the Mega Millions game from its portfolio of offerings and aid to education would be affected negatively.”
The MUSL’s proposed adjustments to Mega Millions – which was launched in 1996 as the Big Game – are designed to combat a phenomenon known as “jackpot fatigue.”
In the last few years, several state lotteries have reported serious slumps in terms of ticket sales for major lottos like Powerball and Mega Millions, which have seen jackpots swell to $600 million recently.
According to stakeholders who specialize in the industry, jackpot fatigue is the primary culprit, as recreational players now shy away from purchasing tickets until the jackpots reach similarly high stakes.
During testimony delivered in 2015, amidst her state’s own lotto downswing, Massachusetts state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg commented on the causes of jackpot fatigue:
“Not long ago, that threshold to draw the interest of casual consumers who do not traditionally play the lottery was [a jackpot of] $100 million.
The dilemma the industry now faces is once a big jackpot is hit, there is no more excitement and the media loses interest, so it is becoming increasingly difficult to grow jackpots and game sales.”
Other state lotto regulators, including the Ohio Lottery Commission, are currently considering the MUSL’s advised rule changes.
In addition to the increase in price from $1 to $2, the following gameplay elements will be adjusted effective October 31:
– Players will choose five numbers from a main set of 1-70, rather than the previous 1-75
– The secondary set of numbers increases from 1-15 to 1-25
– Odds of winning any prize fall from 1 in 14.7 to 1 in 24
– Odds of winning second-place jackpot ($1 million) improve from 1 in 18.5 million to 1 in 12.6 million
– Various non-jackpot prize amounts improve