Professor: Odds of winning big in Mega Millions have decreased significantly

Professor Cornelius Nelan

The Mega Millions jackpot is reaching record levels ahead of Tuesday night’s drawing. Cornelius Nelan, professor of mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences at Quinnipiac University, is available to discuss the odds of winning.

“The way Mega Millions is played has changed,” he said. “The odds used to be 175,000,000 to one, but that was changed recently.

“The new way of playing requires you to pick five balls from 75 (previously it was five from 54) and then one ball from 15 (previously 35) so the odds of winning now are 258,890,850 to one, quite a change, especially since the cost of tickets is the same. The jackpot is currently up to 586 million and will rise, yet there is still about a 25 percent chance that no one will win. Though over a billion tickets will be sold, not every possible combination will be picked.

“Perhaps the most significant change is in the second prize: $1,000,000.  The odds of winning that have increased from about five million to one to over 18 million to one.  In fact, the odds of winning virtually all the prizes increased except for winning $1 which requires you to get the mega ball but not one of the other 75  balls.  The odds of doing that are one in about 21.  Overall, you have a one in 14.7 chance of winning a prize, which seems like an improvement over the old system, but the odds of winning big have decreased significantly.”

To arrange an interview with Nelan, please contact John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, at 203-582-5359 (office) or 203-206-4449 (cell).


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