The Likelihood of Winning the Lottery on America’s East Coast
Last Updated: August 17, 2023
Let’s face it, we’ve all day dreamed of winning the lottery at some point, imagining how we’d spend those millions of dollars. Would it be a round-the-world cruise first or perhaps a house in the Hamptons? In the United States, there are two popular lotteries – Powerball, which takes place three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and then Mega Millions, which occurs twice a week, on Tuesday and Fridays. The lotteries are very similar in that they both have different tiers of prizes and the chance to win a jackpot. With lottery draws taking place five out of the seven days of the week, might the odds of scooping up a prize be a little better than one would first imagine? Well, some would say that your chance of hitting the jackpot could be influenced by something as simple as the state you reside in. At LotteryCritic.com, we have analysed the winning probabilities and ticket sales in order to gain insights into which states have the highest likelihood of winning the top three prizes, and the comparative best performing states in terms of ticket sales:
Florida is the luckiest state on the East Coast and sells the most winning tickets
South Carolina has a high probability of winning the Mega Ball
Washington D.C has the fewest lottery wins
Virginia is the only state to have scooped the jackpot in both lotteries
4 Numbers + Powerball (PB)
If you’re lucky enough to match four numbers and the Powerball, you can expect to receive a pay out in a range from $50,000 to $500,000. According to our calculations, residents of New York State (NY) have the highest probability of winning this tier, with a likelihood of approximately 0.00016%. Luck must be in the air in Florida though, because despite having lower individual odds the Sunshine State has managed to sell the most winning tickets in this tier, at 133. This is some 32% more than the 91 winning tickets sold in New York, and it certainly appears to contradict recent findings that Florida is the least lucky state in America. Pennsylvania follows behind New York, having sold 63 winning tickets at this tier.
Matching 5 numbers would net you between $1 million and $2 million: definitely enough to afford that cruise for the family. If you live in Delaware, your odds of sailing off into the sunshine are the highest, or rather they should be statistically at 0.000202%. However, when it comes to ticket sales, New York takes the spotlight, selling 6 winning tickets in this tier. ‘Unlucky’ Florida and Pennsylvania follow closely behind with 5 and 4 winning tickets sold respectively.
The Jackpot! 5 Numbers + Powerball (PB)
Only one state on the Eastern seaboard has so far had the privilege of selling a winning ticket for the jackpot, and this was Virginia in 2023. The winning ticket was sold at the Gill Brothers gas station in Dublin, Virginia and had a jackpot totalling an enormous $162,600,000. The probability of winning this ticket was approximately 0.000026%, which translates to odds of about 1 in 3.8 million – not too dissimilar to the odds of being eaten by a shark (1 in 3.7 million). The winners will be thanking their lucky stars that they stopped off to refuel rather than taking a dip that day!
Powerball: Probability of Winning Based on Number of Winning Tickets Sold
Mega Million Findings
4 Numbers + Mega Ball (MB)
At this tier, the prize pot is significantly less than it is for the Powerball, with winners taking home between $10,000 and $50,000. The state with the highest probability of winning this tier is South Carolina with odds of 0.00054%, although New Jersey follows very close behind with odds of 0.000526%. The odds of the Mega Million looks set to follow the same trajectory as the Powerball though, with Florida once again dominating the winning ticket sales, selling 105 for this tier, followed by New York at 90.
At this tier of the Mega Millions, the prize money ramps up to between $1 million and $5 million, meaning that it can sometimes overtake the Powerball. In theory this should be fantastic news if you live in South Carolina, which makes an appearance yet again as the state with the highest probability of winning, boasting odds of 0.0000811%. Once again these individual odds do not translate into a significant number of winning tickets at a state level, with New York and Florida yet again taking the lead – the former having sold nine winning tickets, and the latter a respectable seven.
The Jackpot! 5 Numbers + Mega Ball (MB)
If you choose to enter just one lottery, then the odds of winning the jackpot are 3.48% higher on the Mega Ball compared to the Powerball. While the Powerball famously lays claim to the highest prize pot in history, at a staggering $2.04 billion, we would be more than happy enough to hedge our bets with the Mega Ball’s jackpot tier, which ranges from $20,000,000 to a colossal $1,348,000,000. Maine has the highest individual probability of landing a jackpot, at odds of 1 in 312,500, but in terms of the number of winning tickets sold the Pine Tree State is overtaken by New York, which does exceedingly well in every tier of the Mega Ball and has sold 3 jackpot tickets. Massachusetts has sold 2 jackpot tickets, while Virginia – the only state to net a jackpot in each lottery – has sold 1 winning ticket.
Mega Ball: Probability of Winning Based on Number of Winning Tickets Sold
Florida Sells the Most Winning Tickets
Florida has sold the most winning tickets across several tiers, notwithstanding that it does not have the highest individual probability of winning. It would be nice to put Florida’s luck down to kismet, but Jonathan Merry, CEO of LotteryCritic, believes there are several factors that contribute towards the Sunshine State’s lottery success: “Florida is known for being a retirement destination and traditionally retirees are more likely to participate in the lottery, as they have more disposable income and more free time. Another factor that explains Florida’s success is its popularity with tourists, attracting millions of visitors each year. Many of these tourists will purchase lottery tickets while visiting the state, significantly boosting Florida’s ticket sales and, in turn, the odds of it selling a winning ticket”. It may also be down in part to Florida State Law which denies lottery winners the right to anonymity. With the information all out in the public domain, we have more records of Florida’s lottery wins than any other state.
Washington D.C is The Worst Performing State
While Florida has a high number of wins but a low individual probability of winning, the opposite is the case for South Carolina. The Palmetto State has relatively good odds of winning in two tiers in the Mega Ball, but managed to net just 21 winning tickets featuring 4 numbers plus the Mega Ball, more than six times fewer than Florida, which sold 133 tickets. In the 5 numbers tier, South Carolina had no wins whatsoever despite its good individual odds. South Carolina is by no means the worst performing state though; that accolade has to go to Washington D.C, and if Florida’s success is in part down to retirees who have the free time to play the lottery, perhaps the opposite is true in the heart of government, where busy senators and congressmen lack the free time available to join in the draws. The District was closely followed by Delaware and Rhode Island, both of which have low probabilities of winning and low winning ticket totals.
Are Some States Simply Luckier Than Others?
Our analysis shows that a higher individual probability of winning doesn’t necessarily equate to a high number of wins on a state level, and the three states that fared the best in terms of wins were Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, which, in their respective orders, also have the largest populations in the area. It goes without saying that a larger population is likely to drive a higher volume of lottery ticket sales, and while many would like to believe that some states are luckier than others, the true picture is much more complicated. When it comes down to it, the very best way to enhance your odds is not to wait to buy tickets in a particular state, but simply to take part as often as you can.
At LotteryCritic we gathered data on the probability of winning the Powerball and Mega Millions on the US East Coast based on the amount of winning tickets that had been sold in each state. We compared the odds for all tiers of the games and then calculated the odds for the top three tiers, which we then combined with the total tickets sold by Mega Millions and Powerball. Data was gathered on the total number of tickets sold in each state, the amount of winning tickets sold by game, tier and state, and the specific amount won by each game in each state. It was a combination of all these factors that helped us to ascertain the probability of winning the lottery for each state on the Eastern seaboard. There is a partial lack of data for Mega Millions in Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia which does not affect the findings in this article.