Powerball bets ticket price hike won't deter jackpot dreamers
For one lottery game, now all you need is $2 and a dream.
Betting double or nothing it can jack up ticket prices without losing players, Powerball is doubling its buy-in to $2 on Jan. 15 and modifying its rules to increase players' odds of winning.
"I'll play less now," said Eddie Rodriguez, 50, a building super from midtown who plays $15 to $20 a week.
Izzy Badillo, 24, of Queens said, "I am not angry, just disappointed. The majority of people who play are of middle and lower class incomes.
I may continue to play, but much less than ever before because I just don't have the money to waste."
But officials are banking the price hike won't drive players away from their chance of scoring a massive jackpot.
"Our players really like variety and new games and the idea that there are larger jackpots now," said New York Lottery spokeswoman Christy Calicchia, adding that the minimum prize will increase from $20 million to $40 million.
Under the modified rules, players will still choose five numbers from one to 59 on the top of their game card, but instead of picking a Powerball number between one and 39, they'll choose between one and 35. Second-place winners will take home $1 million instead of $200,000, and the smallest prize players can win will be $4 instead of $3.
Officials from the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball in 43 states, estimate that the modified game will increase players' odds of winning the jackpot from one in 195 million to one in 175 million. But that still means you're more likely to get struck by lightning this year than win the jackpot on a single try, according to the national weather service.
Calicchia said New York Lottery officials "don't anticipate" a decline in players after ticket prices go up. "I think that people will embrace the new change," she said.
There might be a slight dip initially in the number of gamblers buying tickets because of the price hike, but that won't last, said Clyde Barrow, a gambling expert at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Some states even have absurdly large ticket prices that proved popular, such as $50 scratch-offs in Texas, he added.
"With the price increase, the payout also goes up, and that's what influences people to keep playing as well," Barrow said.
In 2011, Powerball generated nearly $203 million in sales and more than $83 million in profit for New York alone, records show, and there were 12 jackpot winners in New York City in December, including a $200,000 payout from a ticket sold at a convenience store on the upper East side.
Reggie Johnson of midtown said the higher prices won't make him cut down on his playing.
"I don't get discouraged because one day I'm going to win," said Johnson, who is unemployed, while feeding tickets repeatedly into a machine in a midtown deli that kept lighting up "Not a winner" in its LED display.
"One day it's going to happen," Johnson, 44 added. "I've got that faith."
(With Sheila Anne Feeney, Erik Ortiz and Robert Levin)
Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja