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A $1.6 billion jackpot has Utahns crossing state lines for lottery tickets

A sign displays the estimated Mega Millions jackpot at a convenience store in Chicago, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. The jackpot has since soared to $1.6 billion, the largest prize in U. S. lottery history. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

With the announcement that the Mega Millions lottery now has a $1.6 billion jackpot, Utahns are flocking across state lines to buy lottery tickets.

Utah law forbids businesses from selling lottery tickets, but there’s nothing stopping Utahns from buying those tickets in another state. The record-setting jackpot, it seems, is temptation enough for a lot of Utahns to make that trip.

Utahns cross state lines for Mega Millions tickets

Utahans waiting in line for lottery tickets.

People line up to buy lottery tickets at Top Stop in Malad, Idaho, rushing out for another big jackpot back on Jan. 13, 2016. (Ravell Call/Deseret News)

Typically, when jackpots hit certain levels, gas stations on the Idaho side of the state line see large increases in cars with Utah license plates in their parking lots. In past years, Utahns have stood in long lines to buy lottery tickets just over the state line.

The Mega Millions jackpot is currently at $1.6 billion, making it the biggest jackpot in history.

If a Utahn did win the jackpot, legally, they would be allowed the collect the money.

It’s happened before. In 2013, one Utah man traveled to Idaho to buy his son a Powerball ticket. That ticket won the family a share in a $1 million jackpot.

But this time around, the odds of being that lucky winner are lower than ever. That’s part of the reason the jackpot got so high. Mega Millions deliberately lowered the odds of winning from 1 in 259 million to 1 in 302.5 million, hoping that the bigger jackpot would attract attention.

It worked. People are coming out in droves for what is now the largest jackpot in U.S. history.

But the larger number of ticket buyers affects the odds of winning, as well. With more people buying tickets, the odds that you’ll have to share that $1.6 billion jackpot with other winners are a lot higher – meaning that, chances are, the winner of this lottery won’t actually be coming home a billionaire.

Should the lottery come to Utah?

An updated paper sign is displayed on the counter of a 7-Eleven store, Oct. 19, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Stories like this one have led some people to call on the state to change their lottery laws.

When a resident of Utah buys a lottery ticket, their money goes to the state that sold them the ticket and not to Utah itself. If Utah legalized the lottery, some have argued, that money would stay within our state and could be used to fund the education system.

In fact, Idaho, according to a 2015 report, has been able to put an extra $292.9 million into education through the lottery.

But not everybody is convinced that bringing the lottery to Utah would be good for the state. Les Bernal, executive director of the nonprofit group Stop Predatory Gambling, says that the lottery would actually hurt the Utah economy. He says that it encourages people to throw their money into something that doesn’t impact the economy, which, in the long run, would actually lower the state’s revenue.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, likewise, has criticized the idea of bringing the lottery to Utah, telling the Deseret News: “Does it really generate all this free money or does it bring all these social problems with it?”

For the time being, Utah’s lawmakers are keeping the lottery out of the state. Anyone who wants to risk their money for a chance at $1.6 billion will have to join the crowds waiting in line at a gas station on the other side of the Utah state borderline.

More to the story

Dave Noriega and special guest Ethan Millard talked about whether they’d go across state lines to buy a lottery ticket on KSL’s Dave & Dujanovic. Ethan says “Absolutely not” — but Dave says that “the chances of you earning $1.6 billion has got to be far fewer than the lottery.”

If you missed the show live, you can still hear everything they had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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