Why the biggest lottery jackpot in the world hasn’t been

Call it the biggest lottery jackpot in the world that wasn’t.

The Mega Millions jackpot that was billed as the biggest ever at $ 1.6 billion ended up being the second biggest at $ 1.537 billion. It’s a difference that probably means little to the lucky person who bought the ticket in South Carolina and won Tuesday night’s draw, but it raises questions about how lottery officials make estimates and s ‘they were influenced by the desire to claim the jackpot amount exceeded all others.


Although Mega Millions is sold in most states, 11 of them largely run the game and are responsible for determining the estimated jackpot, according to Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery, one of the 11 key states. . When the jackpots become particularly large, lottery officials in those states compare the scores on the sales numbers daily and combine that information with historical data to make an initial estimate, then decide if it needs to be updated.


In fact, they get it wrong every time. That is, this is an estimate and because the exact jackpot is determined by sales numbers in 44 states plus Washington, DC and the US Virgin Islands, there is no way to reach the exact figure. Usually nobody notices it, but when you shout that the prize is the biggest ever then mumble that it’s actually the second biggest, people notice it.

Officials note, however, that the reason the jackpots go up so dramatically when the prices get huge is that people who don’t normally gamble decide to buy a few tickets. This is fine for lottery sales, but it is more difficult for officials to estimate how many irregular players will participate and how many tickets they will buy, which adds further complications to estimating the amount. jackpot.


Yes, there is a big difference between the estimate and the actual price, but part of it is because the price is so huge. The estimate doesn’t seem so wrong if you consider it to be about 4% wrong. If the price was estimated to be $ 100 million more common and the payout was $ 96 million, would anyone notice?


The explanations are all nice and good, but officials admit that the “greatest ever” status has brought them incredible attention to the Mega Millions design.

Peggy Stover, professor of marketing at Business College at the University of Iowa, said proclaiming something as first or best was invaluable. As Stover says, “Whether it’s your first kiss or the first time on a roller coaster, people tend to remember the first of something much more vividly than the second.”

In other words, “It’s hard when you come up with second best. “


Richard McGowan, a Jesuit priest and gambling expert at Boston College, agreed that estimating big jackpots is not an exact science, but said officials are under increasing pressure to tout big prizes, because the percentage of people playing lotteries has decreased over the years. A lot of people won’t even notice a jackpot unless they learn it’s the biggest ever, he said.

“Anything that can heighten the excitement factor, they’re going to use it,” said McGowan, consultant for lottery organizations and anti-gambling groups. “Think about the amount of free publicity they’ve had. “

McGowan notes that the media also likes to feature stories about the “biggest prizes of all time.”


David Kramer, an attorney from Omaha, Nebraska, said he bought a lottery ticket when the jackpot flew for “the three days of reverie it gives me about what I would make the money if I was winning”.

Is there any outrage that a prize advertised as the world’s biggest is actually a place at the bottom of the list?

“Does it make a difference to someone this morning when they thought they were going to make $ 1.6 billion and only made $ 1.537 billion?” He asked. “I think the answer is a resounding ‘No’.”


AP writer Margery A. Beck contributed to this report from Omaha, Nebraska.


For full lottery coverage by the AP: https://apnews.com/Lottery

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