Powerball, Mega Millions lotteries joining forces

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 23, 2010

No more choosing between the two jackpots, no more crossing state lines to buy the hope of millions: Starting Jan. 31, lottery players will be able to buy both Powerball and Mega Millions tickets throughout the Washington region under an agreement between the two games.

Currently, 31 states, the District and the U.S. Virgin Islands sell Powerball, and 12 states, including Maryland and Virginia, offer Mega Millions. The two games agreed in October to let them all offer both games. District, Maryland and Virginia officials announced this week that they will start selling both Jan. 31.

"Here's the logic. It's simple. When you go to a grocery store, you can buy different brands of milk. . . . Why shouldn't people be able to buy more than one jackpot game?" asked Buddy Roogow, the new executive director of the D.C. Lottery and former director of the Maryland Lottery. "Tonight's Mega Millions is $105 million. Powerball is $65 million. People can decide which one they want to play."

The move is also about generating funds for the participating jurisdictions. For example, the D.C. Lottery expects to make an extra $5 million over the course of a year with the addition of Mega Millions, Roogow said.

"These games are very excitement-driven. The higher the jackpot, the more people play," he said. "Some people say they won't play until it reaches $100 million. What? Fifty million isn't good enough for you?"

The minimum jackpot for Mega Millions is $12 million; Powerball's is $20 million. The record jackpot for Mega Millions was $390 million, won in March 2007; Powerball's biggest jackpot wasn't far behind, at $340 million, won in October 2005.

It appears that 33 jurisdictions are now prepared to offer both games, said Charles Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, the group that runs Powerball. "More will come up later," Strutt said.

But this was the year to begin the new arrangement, Strutt said. "The timing was right," he said. "The two groups have been in talks for three years. The political timing, the economy, everything came together."

Allowing jurisdictions to offer both games was the quickest way to get started, Strutt said.

The groups also expect to create another national game this year, said Roogow, who ran the Maryland Lottery for 13 years before going to work for the District in December.

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