Once upon a time, playing the lottery meant trudging down to the local grocery or newsstand, buying your favorite scratch-off or Lotto ticket, then winning or losing—right there at the counter, or later in a televised drawing, complete with spinning drum.
Things are different now. In a boon for players, the lottery is increasingly moving online. Online lottery games are now offered in 10 U.S. states and legislation is pending in a half-dozen more. For players, it makes sense. Online lotteries are more convenient, offering 24/7 instant access to scratchers and instant-win games. They also give you a broader range of games, plus ongoing promotions that boost your chances to win.
Here are six great reasons to play the lottery online.
1. Lots More Games to Play!
The online lottery gives you way more games than you’ll find at the corner store. For example, a quick glance at the Pennsylvania Lottery shows 120 titles: seasonal games, progressives, and draw games, like Pick 2, Pick 3, Pick 4, Cash 5, and Match 6. The Virginia Lottery serves up 100-plus games, and the Michigan Lottery offers more than 250 titles.
All these lotteries offer Mega Millions and Powerball, famous for their monster jackpots. To date, Powerball holds the world’s record for the largest lottery prize ever awarded, in January 2016, when three winners in California, Florida, and Tennessee split a staggering $1.586 billion. In October 2018, the largest single jackpot was awarded to a Mega Millions player from South Carolina who won an epic $1.537 billion and took the $878 million cash option (minus taxes, of course).
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2. Generous Bonuses
Online lotteries offer players all kinds of great freebies and a slate of revolving deals, promotions, sweepstakes, and more.
The Pennsylvania Lottery offers a 100% first-deposit match of up to $500, plus $5 in Free Play to get you started. You must play through your deposit and Bonus 10X before Bonus Money is converted to cash.
The Michigan Lottery also offers a 100% deposit match of up to $200 when you first create your online lottery account.
The Virginia Lottery has a nice welcome bonus, too: 20 free games on Vegas Cash Drop and a 100% first-deposit match of up to $100.
All state lotteries want you to play, and play often. To keep you interested, they regularly offer new promotions based on the season, the holidays, and even sports.
In a recent March Madness-inspired promotion called Bracket Buster, Virginia Lottery players pitted their favorite online instant games against each other and got to choose the champ, with prizes all around for the winners.
Throughout April at the Michigan Lottery, you can play a special online instant game called Spring Mix Up. From a jumble of spring symbols, you can earn prizes up to $50,000, multiply your wins and unlock bonus games. The odds of winning are 1 in 4.77.
Here’s a Mother’s Day promotion you’ll like from the Pennsylvania Lottery: The Best Mom Ever is a $5 online scratch-off game with 10 top prizes of $100,000. Reveal a “Mom” symbol, and you’ll win the prize shown under that symbol. Reveal a “Best” symbol, and win all 12 prizes shown!
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4. Second Chance Drawings—More Chances to Win
A great feature of online lotteries is their second-chance promotions. For a second bite at the apple, just enter select non-winning scratch-offs or qualified instant and draw game tickets for a chance to win prizes.
5. You Can Track Your Spend
Playing the lottery online can help you keep better track of how much time and money you’re spending on the games. You can also set daily and weekly deposit limits so you never go over your budget, and self-exclude yourself when you need to take a break from playing.
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6. You Can’t Lose Your Ticket (or Forget to Cash In)
Did you know that millions of dollars in winning lottery tickets go unclaimed every year? Recently, a Virginia woman bought a $2 Cash 5 ticket at a grocery store, then misplaced it. When she finally found it, it was so stained with coffee that it initially scanned as a loser. Then the ticket dried out, and the lucky woman collected $110,000.
Last year, a Tennessee man won $1.2 million but lost the winning ticket, requiring him to retrace his steps to find it lying on the ground. Also in 2021, convenience store owners in Massachusetts reunited a million-dollar lottery ticket with the woman who had tossed it because she thought it was a loser. And early this year, a 55-year-old woman didn’t know she’d won the $3 million Mega Millions prize until she checked her spam folder to find an email from the Michigan Lottery.
Playing online with automatic electronic payments makes cashing in (or applying the credits to your account) a simple process, no matter how much or little win.
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Remember, whenever you play the lottery, make a budget, stick to it, and don’t invest more than you’re willing to lose. That said, these tips may get you a little closer to a life-changing win:
- Choose numbers above 31.“Everybody and their sister plays their birthday or a lucky number, which tend not to be more than 31,” says Professor Steve Bleiler, mathematician and games expert at Portland State University. “Stop picking numbers between 1 and 31.”
- Choose a unique combination of numbers.That way, if you win, you won’t have to split the prize with others.
- Play your state’s Pick 3 type games. They offer vastly better odds and more chances to win. Play “boxed” bets, which let you match winning numbers in any order (i.e., 123, 231, 213). Then try the same in Pick 4, reinvesting any wins into “straight” wagers, where you have to match winning numbers in the order they were drawn. Eventually, level up to Pick 5 or Pick 6.
- Join a lottery pool—or start one.Do the math. Spend $10 at $2 per game, and you’ve played five games. Throw $10 into a pool of 100 people, and you’ve played 500! Your luck just increased a hundredfold.
- Go ahead and play Powerball, but don’t expect a life-changing win.Understand that each Powerball entry has odds of 1 in 292.2 million, in every drawing. But it’s fun to throw your hat in the ring, and after all, someone has to win. Again, choose a mix of unpopular numbers, so if you win, you stand a better chance of winning big.
“Playing the lottery is fun, exciting, and once in a while somebody gets paid, so you think, ‘It could be me,’” says Bleiler. “But the fact is, you could buy every lottery ticket except one, and still lose all your money.”
So play within your means, and have fun. “When you buy a lottery ticket,” adds Bleiler, “you’re buying a dream. As long as the cost of the dream does not adversely affect your reality, go ahead and enjoy it.”