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U.S. Lottery

Published on: 07/08/2013

The history of gambling in America has been a checkered one: Many states have embraced it, welcoming the influx of casinos and lottery venues; others have made illegal any kind of gambling. A compromise over the years has been to enter into complicated cross border agreements, through which, by certain legal loopholes and allowances, they have been able to form multi state lottery syndicates. An example of this would be the country’s very first multi state lottery – the Tri State Lotto, formed in 1985 between Vermont and New Hampshire.

Such was the instantaneous success of this collaborative venture that it spurred the formation of the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), a non profit organization, created in 1987. This was formed out of an assortment of states and independent jurisdictions, including Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, West Virginia, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.

The MUSL was quick to develop games to put out over its wide catchment area. One of the first was “Lotto America;” This simple and effective game consisted of a pick-7-of-40 design, with four numbers being matched winning a standard $5 Prize. By matching 5 numbers or more the participant would win the pari-mutuel; this included the impressive 7 of 7 progressive style jackpot, a slow yielding prize, which distributed the winnings throughout a 20 year annuity. The design was altered in 1990: for just $1 players could be part of a 6 of 54, getting two games and the experience of winning pari mutual prizes.

Such was the success of their ventures that by only 1992 Lotto America was the largest cross state premier lottery in the United States. Soon others states wanted to be part of the system, and seven members grew to sixteen, with the joining of Kentucky, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Montana, Minnesota, South Dakota, Delaware and Wisconsin. Such was the span of the institution now, so great were the potential numbers of new players that MUSL felt driven to instigate a new, grander game: Powerball, which replaced Lotto America. This new game was first played in April 1992. Powerball had many innovative features to distinguish it from it’s predecessor, but the most notable one was probably it’s two drums. This aspect was soon widely imitated, cropping up In Australia’s Powerball, and the United Kingdom’s Euromillions and Thunderball. With the inclusion of a pair of drums more prize levels were offered, along with better odds for the players.

This Thunderball game developed over the years - it started out with 45 white balls, from which 5 were selected; from the second drum of red balls one was selected – this was the powerball. The number of white balls grew from it’s original 45, to 49 in 1997, then to 53 in 2002, culminating to the current 59 varities. The number of powerballs has actually shrunk, now numbering only 35. Unfortunately the price of playing hasn’t receded, with the initial $1 per play doubling to $2 in 2012. A feature called Power Play was introduced in 2001. This daring addition to the game allowed players to multiply their winnings by up to five times. The numerical value of this multiplier was calculated by a spinning wheel, and was not applicable to jackpot wins. Power play rose in value to $2 in 2012.

The initial massive win through the powerball occurred in 1998: this was a world record lottery triumph, amounting to a staggering $295.7 million. This stupendous sum was actually exceeded in 2002 when Jack Whittaker, a player from West Virginia found himself the biggest jackpot winner, collecting a cool $314 million. Then four years later this was exceeded by a syndicate of eight employees at a food processing plant in Nebraska, who shared $365 million.

The powerball was not without competition though – other companies wanted a slice of the public’s ravenous appetite for the lottery. For 14 years, starting in 1996, and ending in 2010, the powerball was under competition with Mega Millions for state distribution. This was another vastly popular lottery game. Finally in 2010 the Cross Sell Expansion was formulated – an agreement permitting states to sell both Mega Millions and Powerball tickets alongside each other. As of 2012 44 states now sell both types of tickets, and the initial jackpot has risen to $40 million. Every year countless people play these games, hoping for their dreams to come true.

Published on: 07/08/2013 © Bet Bind