Lottery's Powerball to add third weekly drawing in August

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills — The association that runs the Powerball lottery will announce next month that it’s adding a third weekly drawing on Mondays, likely leading to more of the enormous jackpots that draw increased attention and sales.

The move comes amid an uptick in Powerball sales for 2021, an improvement that follows a two-year decline. While opinion varies about its ultimate effect on retailers, there's little doubt about its impact on lottery players: they'll spend more.

That will be good for business, predicted Andrew Mansoor, owner of Orchard Marketplace here.

But at Bella Vino Fine Wine & Spirits, another liquor and wine shop 1.7 miles away, owner Ronnie Jamil said the new nip at lottery players' wallets will ultimately take a bite out of his bottom line.

Starting Aug. 23, confirmed a Michigan Lottery spokesman, a Monday drawing will join the Wednesday and Saturday games offered by the sprawling Powerball collective whose $1.586 billion jackpot in 2016 was the largest ever won in the United States.

For optimistic bettors, it’ll be an extra shot at top prizes that begin at $20 million and increase every time no player matches five of 69 white balls and one of 26 red balls drawn at Universal Studios in Florida.

For committed bettors, especially those who play a given set of numbers every drawing, it’ll be an extra $104 per year or more spent bucking odds of 292 million to 1 — a figure 239 times greater than someone's chances of being struck by lightning this year.

For Mansoor, he said, it’ll be an opportunity.

Ronnie Jamil expects lottery receipts to grow when a third weekly Powerball drawing is added in August, but says his bottom line at Bella Vino in Farmington Hills could take a hit.

His liquor store on 13 Mile west of Orchard Lake Road has two lottery terminals behind the counter and a big vending machine near the door. With the store powered by a generator after a storm last week, aisles were dim but the terminals purred.

“Whatever games they throw at us, we handle it,” Mansoor said. “The lottery brings in people, all kinds, and they buy a drink or something while they're here. It’s more business for us.”

Along with the added $2-per-ticket game, said Michigan Lottery spokesman Jake Harris, Powerball will also introduce a double-play feature — a $1 chance at a second set of numbers with a much lower top prize, similar to what Michigan offers on its Lotto 47 and Fantasy 5 games.

The Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association acknowledged that changes are in the works, but offered no details pending an Aug. 2 announcement. Confirmations of the changes have come from officials in several of the other 44 states that sell Powerball tickets along with the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

A 33% increase in the number of weekly drawings will logically accelerate the climb to the outsize jackpots created by multiple rollovers, drawings in which no one claims the top prize.

The problem, said Bella Vino's Jamil, is that retailers only keep 6% of lottery sales, far less than what they typically net on other purchases, "and you're taking away from the money people spend on other goods."

"Someone who's spending $20 a week on Powerball, now he's spending $30," Jamil said. "That extra $10 has to come from somewhere. Instead of buying a 12-pack, he's buying a six-pack. Instead of buying a $20 bottle of wine, he's spending $10."

Powerball sales totaled $4.75 billion in 2018, then fell to $4.08 billion in 2019 and dropped precipitously to $3.17 billion amid the COVID-19 restrictions of 2020. Sales through early July have already reached $2.54 billion, according to Multi-State Lottery Association figures.

"The lottery's probably been the busiest ever for us the last two years," Mansoor said. "The pandemic hit. The casinos were closed. The lottery was the best, safest option."

Duron Green of Southfield, who had just purchased Daily 3 and Powerball tickets at a Southfield filling station, said he "still won't go back to a casino. But I have to buy gas, and as long as I'm here, right?"

Green said he regularly plays two sets of Powerball and Mega Millions numbers based on relatives' birthdays and former high school football uniform numbers.

He's not pleased about paying extra every week for a Monday drawing, "but you have to, right? You can't skip one drawing to save $4 and have your numbers come up."

That $4, predicted both Mansoor and Jamil, will soon be $8.

The Mega Millions lotto game, with its even longer odds of 302 million to 1, does not have a central office to reach for comment. But the liquor store owners expect its Tuesday and Friday drawings to expand to a third night.

Mega Millions and Powerball "always follow each other," Mansoor said.

The two games and their associations were rivals until an agreement to let states sell both games in 2010. Mansoor suggested the skirmish might resume.

"I can see Mega Millions going Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday," he said, with Thursday being open territory and Saturday marking direct competition. "I think they'll go head-to-head."

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn