New York Lotto vs. Sweet Million: Odds and Payouts

TR Smith is a product designer and former teacher who uses math in her work every day.

New York Lotto and Sweet Million are two random number drawing lottery games offered in the state of New York. While New York Lotto is still offered, the Sweet Million game was retired in the summer of 2014. The lotteries have different structures, payouts, and odds, leading many players wonder which lottery was the better bet. Here is an analysis of both lotteries so you can compare them.

How to Play New York Lotto

Each NY Lotto ticket costs \$1 and gives you two selections, and this lottery is played by selecting 6 distinct numbers from 1 to 59. During the official drawing, the lottery picks 6 numbers and a 7th bonus number, which is used only for the secondary prize, not the jackpot. You do not select a bonus number on your ticket and do not pay extra for it as in some lotteries; it is drawn by the lottery.

Probability of Winning New York Lotto

The probability of matching all 6 numbers is

1/(59 C 6)
= 1/45057474

However, since you get two selections per ticket, the probability of winning the jackpot with a single ticket is actually twice this amount, or

2/45057474
= 0.00000004438775
= 0.000004438775%
= odds of 1 in 22,528,737

Odds and Payouts in New York Lotto

Like most lotteries, New York Lotto offers many smaller prizes for lottery ticket number combinations that partially match the numbers of the official drawing. The lesser prizes are not parceled out in fixed amounts, but awarded on a pari-mutuel basis, meaning they depend on the amount of funds available and how many winners there are for each prize level. The percentage of lottery pool allocated to each prize level is given in the table below.

Type of Match
% of Funds Shared by Winners
6 out of 6
30%
5 out of 6 + bonus number
2.9%
5 out of 6
2.2%
4 out of 6
2.5%
3 out of 6
2.4%

The percentages in the right column add up to 40% since the lottery takes 60% of the ticket sales revenue to fund various state programs. The remaining 40% is distributed as prizes. Some may wonder why the percentage for the third prize is the lower than that of the fourth and fifth prizes. It's because there many more fourth and fifth prize winners than third prize winners (because the odds are better), so the third prize allocation is shared among fewer people and therefore higher.

The corresponding odds are

6 of 6: 1 in 22528737.
5 of 6 + bonus: 1 in 3754789.5
5 of 6: 1 in 72207.49
4 of 6: 1 in 1089.92
3 of 6: 1 in 48.08

Overall the odds of winning any prize are 1 in 46.02. These odds take into account the fact that a single ticket provides you with two lottery number selections.

How to Play Sweet Million

In Sweet Million you select 6 distinct numbers from 1 to 40. Each ticket costs \$1 and gives you one play, rather than two as in New York Lotto. However, that doesn't mean that the odds are worse, in fact, the probability of winning the grand prize for Sweet Million is higher even though you only get one selection.

Probability of Winning Sweet Million

The likelihood of winning the grand prize in Sweet Million, i.e., matching all 6 numbers drawn, is

1/(40 C 6)
= 1/3838380
= 1 in 3,838,380

Which is about 7 times better than the odds of winning New York Lotto. The grand prize is capped at \$1,000,000 however, so you won't win as much in Sweet Million as you could in New York Lotto if its jackpot happens to be large and you don't have to share it among other winners.

Odds and Payouts in Sweet Million

Sweet Million pays out for partial matches of 3, 4, and 5 out of 6 numbers. There is no bonus ball drawn as in New York Lotto. The prizes are offered as fixed amounts rather than pari-mutuel, so you always know what you are going to win.

Type of Match
Prize
6 out of 6
\$1,000,000
5 out of 6
\$500
4 out of 6
\$40
3 out of 6
\$3

The payouts are lower than other lotteries, but the odds are better because pool of numbers is only 1 through 40, rather than through 59. The odds of each prize level are

6 of 6: 1 in 3838380
5 of 6: 1 in 18815.59
4 of 6: 1 in 456.14
3 of 6: 1 in 32.07

The overall odds of winning are 1 in 29.92

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