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Many Want Big Jackpots Only

More players feeling fatigue and playing only when mega-lotteries are in record territory

August 8, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The allure of capturing the estimated $425 million Powerball jackpot had players in a buying frenzy Wednesday, further confirming a trend that lottery officials say has become the big ticket norm: Fatigued Powerball players, increasingly blase about smaller payouts, often don't get into the game until the jackpot offers big bucks.

Meghan Graham, a convenience store worker from Brookline, Mass., has purchased nearly a dozen Powerball tickets in recent months thanks to the huge jackpots, and the third largest-ever pot was enough reason to buy again.

"The more it keeps increasing, that means nobody is winning ... a lot of people are gonna keep buying tickets and tickets and tickets and you never know, you just might get lucky if you pick the right numbers," she said.

A recent game change intended to build excitement about the lottery increased the frequency of huge jackpots, and Wednesday's jackpot drawing comes only a few months after the biggest Powerball jackpot in history - a $590 million pot won in Florida by an 84-year-old widow. The second largest Powerball jackpot was won in November and split between two tickets.

With a majority of the top 10 Powerball jackpots being reached in the last five years, lottery officials acknowledge smaller jackpots don't create the buzz they once did.

"We certainly do see what we call jackpot fatigue," said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. "I've been around a long time, and remember when a $10 million jackpot in Illinois brought long lines and people from surrounding states to play that game."

Tom Romero, CEO of the New Mexico Lottery and chairman of the Powerball Group, agreed.

"Many years ago, $100 million was really exciting and people would immediately buy more, occasional players would start buying," he said. "Then the threshold was $200 million. Now, we see here in New Mexico, we're approaching the $300 million mark."

Behavioral economist George Loewenstein, who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, said people judge things in relative terms.

"We compare things," he said. "If there are a lot of jackpots, even though they're all enormous numbers, people are going to start comparing them and if there are billion-dollar jackpots, then $100 million jackpots that used to feel enormous are going to seem much smaller, even though in terms of the impact on your life of winning 100 million or 1 billion, it probably isn't all that different."

 
 

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