Why Do Lottery Jackpots Keep Getting So Big? It’s on Purpose, Holy Cross Economist Says

Victor Matheson, professor of economics. Photo by Tom Rettig

CBS News | Inside Edition

If you think you are seeing more and more lottery prizes top the $1 billion mark, you are right on the money. Just this week, the Mega Millions jackpot has surged to $1.1 billion.

Victor Matheson, professor of economics at the College of the Holy Cross and a lottery expert, told CBS News the bigger jackpots aren’t by chance, but rather a strategy by the Multi-State Lottery Association to generate large sums. 

It seems to be working, as Americans are 15 times more likely to buy a ticket when the winnings inch toward $1 billion compared to when the prizes are just $20 million, according to Matheson.

As enticing as that sounds, the probability  of winning is  extremely rare. For this week’s Mega Millions drawing, for example, the odds are somewhere in the realm of 1 in 303 million.

"To put it into perspective, the typical person who is a golfer would have about a 1-in-15,000 chance in making a hole-in-one on a particular hole," Matheson said. "So winning the Powerball or the Mega Millions is like getting two hole-in-ones in a row when playing golf."

Relevant Coverage:

CBS News, Jan 9

Inside Edition, Jan. 9