The Probability of Winning the Lottery in the Western U.S!

By Ben
Last Updated: August 16, 2023
California may have received its state nickname “The Golden State” from the gold rush that took place there in 1848, but nowadays your best bet for scooping up a fortune in the Western US is purchasing a lottery ticket. There are two main lotteries in the United States: Powerball, which has draws running on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and then Mega Millions, which takes place twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. The lotteries are similar in that they both have different tiers of prizes, culminating in the chance to take home the jackpot. Is the state of California still paved with gold though? Or are you more likely to pick up pieces of eight in the Treasure State of Montana? We at LotteryCritic have analysed the winning probabilities and ticket sales across the Western US to see if something as simple as the state you reside in affects your chances of winning the lottery.  It should be mentioned that while Nevada, Utah, Hawaii and Alaska are among the  the Western US states, we have had to omit these from our analysis as they offer no variation of the Powerball or Mega Millions games.  

Key Findings 

  • California sells the most winning tickets.
  • Wyoming has the fewest lottery wins.
  • Wyoming has the lowest probability of winning a prize on the Powerball and Mega Millions.
  • Washington and California are the only states with jackpot wins.

Powerball Findings 

4 Numbers + Powerball (PB) 

If you match four numbers and the Powerball, you can expect to receive a pay-out ranging from $50,000 to $500,000. This is great news for residents of Oregon (OR), who have the highest probability of winning this tier, at approximately 0.000193%. Colorado, Washington and California also performed well at this level: all three states had likelihoods of over 0.0001%, while the latter, California (CA), sold the most winning tickets in this tier at 192. This is 128% more than Oregon, which, despite offering the highest probability of bringing home a prize at this tier, only sold 42 winning tickets. On the other end of the spectrum, Wyoming had the lowest probability of winning, at 0.000035% and indeed only sold one winning ticket in 2023. 

5 Numbers 

With a prize of between $1 million and $2 million as well as various multipliers depending on the date and the game played, you can definitely afford that all-inclusive trip if you manage to pick five numbers. Residents of Colorado have the highest probability of taking home a prize in this tier at approximately 0.00001%, while California and Oregon follow behind, both having much lower odds of 0.000009%. Unfortunately none of the other West US states have had a tier five winning game so far in 2023.      

The Jackpot!  5 Numbers + Powerball (PB)

If you win the jackpot, you’ll take home some serious big bucks, with prizes ranging from $20 million to over $1 billion! So far in 2023, two winning tickets have been sold in the Western US. The first was in February, where one person in Washington State netted $745.6 million, and then in July 2023, a further winning ticket was sold at the Las Palmitas Mini Market in downtown Los Angeles. For only the third time since the game began in 1992, the pay-out exceeded the $1 billion mark, with the lucky winner taking home a mammoth $1.08 billion.    The chance of winning is higher in Washington than it is in California, with odds of 1 in 33.3 million compared to California’s 1 in 200 million. When you consider that the overall odds of winning the Powerball are around 1 in 292,201,338 it seems that it may very well pay to take a trip to Seattle to purchase that ticket.   

Powerball: Probability of Winning Based on Number of Winning Tickets Sold

  While we are definitely contemplating taking a trip to Washington State, where our odds of winning the Powerball jackpot increase almost tenfold (by 877%), we would still be more than content purchasing a ticket in California where the odds are a healthy 46% higher than the national average. However, it is the residents of Oregon who have the highest probability of picking up a prize at any high-value tier, at 0.000202%. If you want to further increase your chances of winning, you should purchase your ticket in the city of Portland, which is the luckiest place to buy a ticket in the state.  Oregon is closely followed by Colorado, Washington and California all of which boast odds hovering above 0.0001%, while California also claims the highest number of winning ticket sales (210). On the other end of the spectrum, The Cowboy State of Wyoming is the least lucky place to purchase a ticket, with just a 0.000035% chance of taking home any prize on the Powerball, closely followed by Montana and New Mexico. 

Mega Million Findings

4 Numbers + Mega Ball (MB) 

While the prize pot at this tier is significantly less generous than it is for the Powerball, we certainly wouldn’t be complaining if we managed to net a prize of between $10,000 and $50,000. Once again it seems that the Beaver State is extremely lucky, with the probability of taking home a prize at this level sitting at 0.000145%. This is closely followed by Colorado at 0.000111%. Despite the fact that the most winning tickets were sold in California (203), followed by Arizona (27), the odds of winning in these larger states are in fact much lower. Unlucky Wyoming and Montana had no winners in this tier whatsoever.  

5 Numbers     

This is the tier of the Mega Millions, where the prize fund often overtakes the Powerball, with pay-outs of between $1 million and $5 million. This is great news for residents of Idaho and New Mexico, who haven’t been faring well up until this point.  The Gem State and the Land of Enchantment each have a probability of approximately 0.000017%, followed by California which has a likelihood of 0.000009%. Arizona is the only other Western state with a win in this tier.  

The Jackpot!  5 Numbers + Mega Ball (MB)

While the odds of winning the jackpot are 3.48% higher on the Mega Ball compared to the Powerball, there haven’t been any Western winners for this tier as of yet in 2023. This means that wherever you’re based in the Western US, your chance of scooping up the jackpot, which ranges from $20 million to a colossal $1.35 8 billion, is as good as any. 

Mega Ball: Probability of Winning Based on Number of Winning Tickets Sold

  When it comes to the Mega Million, it seems that the Western US doesn’t have quite the same level of luck as with the Powerball, with no wins across several states. However, it is once again Oregon that has the highest probability of winning a prize at any tier, with a probability of 0.000145%. For this lottery, Idaho trails closely behind with a likelihood of 0.000117%. Montana and Wyoming have the lowest probability of winning, failing to secure a winner in any top three tier of the game thus far in 2023.  

Highest Probability Among Both Games

4 Numbers + Ball 

If we were to add up the number of wins across both lottery games at this tier, there would be one clear victor – Oregon! Performing consistently well across both games, the probability of winning in the Beaver State at this tier is 0.00017421%. The state that achieves the second highest probability of matching four numbers and the corresponding ball is Colorado at 0.00011792%. We’d be reconsidering purchasing that ticket in Wyoming and Montana though, as they have the lowest odds of scooping up a prize at 0.00002135% and 0.00002566%, respectively. 

5 Numbers

California is the winner in this tier with an aggregate probability of 0.0000906% for matching five numbers. Among the states that sold winning tickets in this tier, Arizona has the lowest probability of picking up a prize, at 0.00000259%. 

The Jackpot! 5 Numbers + Ball!  

Only two states in the Western US have been lucky enough to scoop the full jackpot, and this was only for the Powerball. Those two states are Washington, which boasts a probability of 0.00000180%, and California, with a lower probability of 0.00000027%.     When it comes to the highest probability of winning the lottery at any high value tier, it is Oregon that takes the crown with a percentage of 0.000202%. It is hard to come up with any one reason for Oregon’s success: the state doesn’t have a particularly small population (which would result in a higher percentage of winners per capita) nor a particularly large one (which would increase the absolute level of wins, albeit at the expense of the per capita success rate). Rather, the level of success could well be down to the popularity of the game within the State. While residents can play both Powerball and Mega Millions, the state also has several lottery games: Lucky Lines, Megabucks, Scratch-its and Keno, showing that lottery games are popular within Oregon.   On the other end of the scale, Wyoming was the least lucky state. Jonathan Merry, Lottery Expert of LotteryCritic believes that this has a lot to do with the size of The Cowboy State: “Wyoming is the smallest state across the United States, and with a population of just 581,381, it is some 80 times smaller than the State of California. With such a small population, the volume of ticket sales simply isn’t enough to put Wyoming anywhere near the top of the leaderboard”.  As the most populous state within the United States, it makes sense to hear that California leads on ticket sales. Wyoming, on the other hand, not only sold the fewest tickets but had the least number of winners across both games.  While Oregon’s success cannot be explained logically, that’s part of the excitement of playing the lottery, with winning coming down to chance rather than a predetermined formula. Though with all of the above in mind, the next time we find ourselves in Portland we’ll definitely be purchasing a ticket! 


We at LotteryCritic gathered data on the probability of winning the Powerball and Mega Millions in the Western US based on the number 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 in the Western US.   Hawaii, Nevada, Utah and Alaska have been omitted from our study as they do not offer Mega Millions or Powerball games.