BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS)–The Massachusetts Lottery did even better financially last fiscal year than it initially thought and is preparing to make changes that it hopes will revive one of its “legacy” games.
Executive Director Mark William Bracken said Tuesday that the final net profit for fiscal year 2023 was roughly $1.194 billion, an increase of $18 million over the pre-audit estimate of $1.176 billion that the Lottery announced in July. In either case, fiscal 2023 saw record high profits for the Lottery.
“While we knew we had a record, we did even better than the record that we thought we had,” Bracken said during a Lottery Commission meeting. “Great job for the team and for our players.”
On top of setting a record, last year’s profit was also enough to beat the projected $1 billion in net profit that Treasurer Deborah Goldberg and Lottery officials told state lawmakers they could expect the Lottery to generate for local aid to cities and towns. Based on that lower projection, the fiscal 2023 budget included $1.231 billion in unrestricted general government aid.
And fiscal year 2024, which started July 1, is off to a quick start at the Lottery, too. Gross sales of $1.198 billion are up $99.7 million or more than 9 percent over the same two-month stretch of fiscal year 2023, Bracken said. And the Lottery’s net profit through two months of $217.8 million is running ahead of last year’s profit pace by nearly $17 million.
Bracken also outlined changes the Lottery plans to make this fall to its Megabucks Doubler game, including doubling the price per ticket to $2, doubling the draw game’s lower-tier prize amounts, making the odds more favorable to players, adding a third weekly drawing, and changing the name back to simply Megabucks.
“We believe that this will be a welcomed change by our player base. The game was a bit stagnant,” he said.
Megabucks Doubler is a draw game in which a player selects six numbers between one and 49. There is a rolling jackpot prize for matching all six numbers as well as fixed prize amounts for matching five, four or three numbers. Drawings are currently held Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Bracken said that the Megabucks Doubler jackpot has not been hit in a year (it currently stands at $10.8 million), and that the game went 14 months without a jackpot before that. He said that “players are now frustrated with the game.”
Part of the reason the jackpot is not being hit is that so few people play Megabucks Doubler. With odds of hitting the jackpot at roughly 1 in 14 million, Bracken said the game simply does not have enough players to generate “coverage” of enough possible combinations to increase the likelihood that any given drawing produces a jackpot winner.
The Lottery sold about $19.3 million worth of the game’s tickets last fiscal year, accounting for 0.3 percent of all Lottery sales.
“I mean, if everyone in Massachusetts bought a ticket for Megabucks for tomorrow night, there’d be a 50 percent chance someone’s gonna hit. But we don’t have that many players of the game, so we have to do something to attract more players to the game,” Bracken said.
The changes expected to take effect Nov. 12 will improve a player’s odds of hitting the jackpot to about 1 in 7 million, Bracken said, by having players select six numbers between one and 44 instead of between one and 49. And increasing the ticket price to $2 will make jackpots grow faster, “and we all know more sales happen when people see a larger jackpot,” Bracken said.
The Lottery Commission voted to allow Bracken to amend Lottery regulations to change the game name from Megabucks Doubler to Megabucks. During the discussion, Comptroller William McNamara uttered a line that Commissioner Meghan Liddy said ought to be the Lottery’s tagline when it promotes the changes to the game.
“Bigger prizes, better chances,” McNamara said. “That’s the message you need people to get.”