Economy

How the Recession Has Crushed Even the Mega Millions and Powerball Lotteries

Jon C. Ogg

For years, winning the lottery had become the new American dream. Paying $2 for a lottery ticket and winning untold millions of dollars just has a lot more allure than a lifetime of hard work. Yet, the recession is crushing the lottery along with everything else. Buying a lottery ticket may have become a luxury expense, now that over 26 million American workers have filed for unemployment in the past month or so.

The current Mega Millions drawing for Friday, April 24, is up at $174 million jackpot and prize payout in its annuity value. That is still empire-building money, but it could be quite some time before a lottery pot is this high again. The lottery jackpot process has undergone some serious changes that could act to lower some of those previous pools that had been well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lottery players hoping to become lottery winners had been excited about playing the lottery for years and years. After all, jackpots in the hundreds of millions of dollars became very enticing to the public. So what if the odds of winning the lottery are lower than being struck by lightning on a sunny day. Now there have been changes made for the Mega Millions and Powerball lotteries.

The two groups did not say they were losing their shirts based on the old rules, but it’s obvious that lottery sales have plummeted now that people are clenching every dollar they can. The changes also may have an impact on lump sum payments.

Both the Mega Millions and the Powerball lotteries have changed how they are calculating the initial jackpots. The chance of winning is still rather low, but the two have also announced changes to the incremental jackpot gains each time the lottery drawings produce no jackpot winner(s).

Before the recession and massive job losses started hurting lottery sales, the Mega Millions jackpot started out at $40 million. The minimum increase was $5 million for each roll, if there was no jackpot winner, but those increments could rise depending on how many of the $2 lotto tickets were acquired. That’s history for now.

Looking ahead, the new method for the starting Mega Millions jackpots and the rate at which the jackpot increases for Mega Millions will be established based on game sales and interest rates. There also will be no fixed minimum amount, and the level will be determined and announced ahead of each drawing.

You can directly blame the recession for this. That’s what the Mega Millions announcement did, even noting that typical lottery sales patterns already have been altered due to so many people staying at home. An April 3 announcement specified:

The Mega Millions Consortium has adjusted the game’s starting jackpot and will determine the amounts of subsequent starting jackpots and jackpot increases on a drawing-by-drawing basis.  The changes are in direct response to slowing sales during the current global pandemic.