Maine had more Powerball tickets than people on Saturday

With a $948 million jackpot (before applicable taxes) on the line, people in Maine bought more than one Powerball ticket per resident Saturday.

Sound like a lot? Well, other states were far ahead. And there’s now a $1.4 billion jackpot on the horizon for Wednesday.

Maine ranked 38th for per-capita Powerball ticket sales, according to sales figures compiled by The Texas Lotto Report for Jan. 9.

In Maine and most other states, the record $900 million jackpot awakened a gambling spirit.

Maine sold about $3.5 million in lottery tickets for Saturday’s drawing, according to the Lotto Report and Maine’s top lottery official.

About $2.9 million were toward $2 ticket sales, which is the basis for calculating how many tickets were sold (hint: divide by 2!).

At $2 per ticket, the $2.9 million in sales works out to more than 1.4 million individual tickets. That’s more than the state’s 1,328,535 people, as of the latest census count.

The high jackpot clearly was the draw for new players, hoping that they land the highly unlikely combination that will net them the big jackpot or another lower prize.

I have to admit, a friend’s notice of the jackpot and a trip to 7-Eleven brought me to buy a Powerball ticket for the first time. That said, it was just one ticket. If you want to get a sense of how difficult it is to win the game before going out and buying tons, try this game from the Los Angeles Times.

And buying tons of tickets won’t help you much. Take a step back and imagine you had purchased 424,819,674 tickets Saturday. Well, America did and still nobody won.

Winning has long odds, and I’d gladly take anyone’s money willing to bet that the pot turns over one more time.

Tim Poulin, deputy director of Maine’s Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, said based on ticket sales Jan. 9, multi-state lottery officials estimated that about 78 percent of all possible number combinations were out in the world.

It’s clear though that rule changes in October that made the game harder to win have paid off at least in the short term for the multi-state lottery, as sales figures for Maine and other states surged after the jackpot topped $500 million.

Take a look here at combined sales for $2 tickets and $1 Powerplay options in Maine as the jackpot has grown just in the latest round, since Nov. 7.

(Note: the share of sales going to $1 Powerplay additions has been about 25 percent across various jackpot values.)

Without a winner, the jackpot has risen to the lofty sum of $1.4 billion for Wednesday night’s 292-million-to-one drawing.

The $1.4 billion sum is the highest single ticket lottery pot ever amassed and is likely to attract a similarly historic audience.

If you want to try having a slight statistical advantage, give these most frequently drawn numbers a look, but keep in mind that your chances are barely barely improved by buying more tickets.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.