At What Point Do People Really Start Caring About The Lottery?

The Powerball jackpot hit a record high of $1.5 billion in early January. With so much news surrounding the jackpot, we wanted to know what the “magic” number is that typically leads to massively increased ticket sales. As it turns out, jackpots over $300M see on average a 39%-90% increase to the next jackpot if they are not won (winning resets the jackpot). The increase is driven by the number of tickets sold. Coincidentally, the odds of winning a Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338. Perhaps psychology is at play here: seeing a jackpot larger than the odds may lead some to conclude that their own odds have improved.

Percentage growth between unwon Powerball jackpots

Speaking of odds, what are the odds that there will be at least one winning ticket? Based on historical ticket sales for Powerball, we estimate a roughly 94% chance that at least one ticket will win on Wednesday if current sales keep up. This jackpot is not historically representative of Powerball as over 70% of all Powerball jackpots have been less than $100 million. Only 11 jackpots, including Wednesday’s, have made it over $350 million.

Number of Powerball jackpots

The current jackpot has been accumulating for two months since the last one was won on November 4th, and the chance of a jackpot going this long without a winning ticket is approximately 4%. Given the two-month span for the jackpot to accumulate, we decided to look at total and per capita ticket sales, including Powerplay, by state. Powerplay is a $1 add-on ticket to the regular Powerball tickets, increasing the dollar amount of all prizes except the jackpot. California dominates with the highest total sales at nearly $210 million in tickets sold since November 4th, but Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, and New Hampshire lead in per capita ticket sales with or without Powerplay. Rhode Island has the most tickets, including Powerplay, sold per capita at almost 5.26 tickets per person. More than 10% of Rhode Island's 1,158 lottery retailers are restaurants and bars, which may account for the higher per capita. 

State Total Sales Tickets Per Capita (including Powerplay)  Tickets Per Capita (no Powerplay)  Notes
Rhode Island $10,327,146  5.26  4.51
New Jersey $90,113,750  5.18  4.88
Delaware $9,238,687  5.10  4.67
New Hampshire $12,830,654  5.05  4.59
Pennsylvania $113,533,143  4.81  4.06
North Dakota $6,046,444  4.73  3.25
Florida $174,375,432  4.64  3.97
Puerto Rico $23,179,734  4.35  2.32
Louisiana $36,844,314  4.24  3.64
Massachusetts $54,969,699  4.17  3.92
South Carolina $35,221,008  4.17  3.03
New York $155,826,405  4.02  3.85
West Virginia $13,900,909  3.97  3.56
Maryland $45,710,739  3.94  3.67
Iowa $22,151,647  3.91  3.18
Nebraska $14,001,652  3.89  3.49
Arizona $50,896,323  3.85  3.60
Colorado $35,247,153  3.78  2.68
Idaho $11,535,932  3.75  3.22
South Dakota $5,832,842  3.74  3.05
Maine $8,321,635  3.69  2.57
District of Columbia $4,696,744  3.67  3.32
North Carolina $64,694,380  3.53  2.91
Wyoming $3,559,925  3.51  2.56
Vermont $3,762,417  3.49  2.52
New Mexico $13,138,518  3.44  2.86
Michigan $66,096,024  3.41  3.25
Missouri $39,182,691  3.30  3.14
Indiana $40,730,828  3.26  2.89
Virginia $51,584,506  3.26  2.90
Georgia $64,583,025  3.26  3.07
Oklahoma $21,628,448  3.25  2.28
Kentucky $27,251,972  3.22  2.94
Wisconsin $34,725,043  3.15  2.87
Arkansas $14,997,785  2.98  2.06
Texas $149,011,448  2.96  2.46
Ohio $62,999,950  2.91  2.52
Kansas $15,888,601  2.84  2.62
Montana $5,126,933  2.82  2.15
Minnesota $30,033,380  2.80  2.67
California $207,000,366  2.64  2.64 No Powerplay
Oregon $19,682,330  2.62  2.27
Illinois $64,019,859  2.60  2.38
Washington $30,326,939  2.20  2.03

Note: Data as of 1/9/2016. Connecticut and Tennessee only had partial data and are not included.

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