SAC Math Students at Odds with Texas Lottery

May 1, 2019

Russell Guerrero - Public Information Officer

Does breaking even on a lottery ticket mean it’s a winner? For students in Gerald Busald’s statistics course, the answer is no. The students took issue with the Texas Lottery Commission practice of claiming that odds of buying a winning Mega Millions ticket was 1 in 24 since it counted break-even tickets as part of the winning results. 

SAC statistics students requested Texas Lottery officials to make changes in the way they stated odds for the Mega Millions game. Earlier this month the students sent letters to the Texas Lottery Commission, the governor, and the lieutenant governor asking them to follow a standard they agreed to in November 2000. Namely to call a break-even prize by its correct name and not classify a break-even prize as a win.

The Texas Lottery Commission agreed.

Ryan Mindell, the lottery operations director at the Texas Lottery Commission, replied to the students’ letter. “I reviewed your request to add a statement referencing break-even prizes when we provide the odds for the Mega Millions game and believe it is a fair and reasonable request,” he wrote. “We have also started the process of updating all other materials that present the odds for this game.”

The commission changed the wording on a Mega Millions ticket to state “Overall Odds 1 in 24.0 (Including break-even prizes).”

Because Mega Millions is played in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, the students hope other states will also be more forthcoming in their statement of odds. States that still call a break-even prize a win include New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Georgia. Several other states make the same vague statement that Texas made previously.