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Changes to make it even harder to win big prizes in Powerballs

ALBANY – If you play Powerball and hope to win the grand prize, the odds astronomically work against you.

It’s about to get a lot worse.

After some internal game changes by New York and the other states that offer the lottery game, the probability of winning the jackpot prize will drop from 1 in 175,223,510 to 1 in 292,201,338.

The change was approved Monday by the state Gaming Commission, which regulates the lottery and other gambling in New York. Officials said the changes were required in order for New York to remain as part of the multistate Powerball system.

The intended purpose of the changes, according to Robert Williams, executive director of the commission, is to increase the overall odds of winning something – anything – by playing Powerball. How? It’s all in the numbers.

Powerball is offered twice a week, and players try to pick winning numbers from two separate fields of numbers. To make it harder to win the grand prize, which can fluctuate based on how many dollars are bet, the size of the betting possibilities will be increased. So, instead of having to pick the five winning numbers from a field size of 59 – shown on red balls drawn from a drum – there will be 69 numbers. In the second betting set, the number of possibilities will drop from 35 numbers to 26.

The changes are specifically intended to reduce the winning odds for bigger prizes and improve them for lesser winnings.

For instance, the probability of a $1 million payout for correctly picking all five numbers from the first set and one from the second set will drop from 1 in 5.1 million currently to 1 in 11.7 million when the changes are implemented. Each drawing is expected to see 25 people win that $1 million amount, down from 38 per drawing now.

The lower the Powerball winnings, the better the new odds of winning something – though still less than the odds of a person in the United States dying from a lightning strike. The odds, for instance, of winning $4 now with Powerball are 1 in 111. With the changes, it will go to one in 92.