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With Florida on board, Powerball tweaks odds

The long-shot odds of winning the Powerball are about to get much longer.

Lottery officials insist that’s good news.

Here’s the deal: In January, Florida will join 31 lotteries throughout the country (and in the Virgin Islands) that participate in Powerball, a twice-weekly drawing of five white balls and one red ball that features huge jackpots.

With Florida, and its 18 million residents coming on board, Powerball officials decided to raise the odds of hitting the jackpot by adding more balls to be drawn. That means the chances of hitting the jackpot will rise from 1 in 146 million to 1 in 195 million.

But the odds to win smaller amounts will improve, and the jackpots will start larger – the minimum will be $20 million instead of $15 million. And because more players will be buying tickets, jackpots should grow faster when no one wins.

“It grows bigger, faster,” said Alice Garland, a spokeswoman for North Carolina’s lottery.

Big jackpots drive Powerball sales, and tweaking the odds will help ensure more of those $100 million, $200 million and even $300 million frenzies.

In selling dreams, buzz is the game, said Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University public policy and economics professor who co-wrote a book about the lottery business. And big prizes bring big buzz.

“They’ve got some very smart people working on this,” Clotfelter said.


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