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HELENA — With just two days before the million-dollar drawing, the Montana Millionaire lottery has sold only 57 percent of its tickets — just covering the cost of the prize money and increasing the odds of winning for the more than 81,000 Montanans who have anted up.

Montana Lottery Director George Parisot said the drawing will continue as scheduled at 10 a.m. Friday, regardless of the number of tickets sold. Parisot also said he’s confident sales will go up in the final days before the drawing.

"I suspect, as we did last year, that we’ll sell another 30 or 40 percent more tickets by tomorrow night," he said Wednesday. "Last year we had almost 30 percent in sales in the last two days."

Just more than 86,000 of the total 150,000 available tickets had been sold by the close of the business day Wednesday, however tickets sales were continuing.

The Montana Millionaire is a 3-year-old game dubbed "Your best shot at a million dollars." Tickets are sold for $20 apiece. The game has one grand prize of $1 million, followed by five $100,000 prizes, five $10,000 prizes and 400 $50 prizes.

Unlike the Powerball lottery game, which sells an unlimited number of tickets and where ticket-buyers pick or receive a list of numbers, Montana Millionaire players receive only one number per ticket: the sequential number of the ticket they purchased. The very first ticket sold was marked with a "1." The last possible ticket sold will be No. 150,000.

The Montana Lottery then randomly by computer selects the winners from among the tickets sold. That means the fewer tickets sold, the greater the odds of winning.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 86,125 tickets had been sold, or about 57 percent of the total.

Typically, almost all tickets available are sold. In the first year, Parisot said, it sold 98 percent of the tickets. Last year, it sold 97 percent.

Even if sales didn’t match those years, Parisot said the Montana Millionaire game has already generated enough money to cover the prizes, although not by much.

If every ticket is sold, the game generates $3 million in revenue. The game costs $1.6 million in prize money, leaving a maximum of $1.4 million in profit.

But so far, the Lottery isn’t looking at a profit margin anywhere near that. At the end of the business day Wednes-day, the game had only generated $172,050 more than the cost of paying out the prizes.

And while we’re talking money, the lucky million-dollar winner won’t actually walk away with one million cold ones. About 25 percent goes to federal taxes and another 10 percent goes to state taxes, Parisot said. So the highest winner will get a total of about $650,000.

Still, not exactly chump change.

Winners get that money two ways, Parisot said. They get the "great big check" for photo-ops and a regular sized check to take the bank.

 

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The Montana Millionaire winning number will be drawn at 10 a.m., Jan. 1 at the Montana Lottery’s Helena headquarters. Helena residents can go to the building and watch the winning number be drawn. Folks less motivated can check these sites for more information:

montanamillionaire.com

facebook.com/montanalottery

twitter.com/montanalottery

www.missoulian.com

www.billingsgazette.com

www.helenair.com

www.mtstandard.com

Winning numbers will also be published in this newspaper on Sat. Jan. 2.

Reporter Jennifer McKee may be reached at Jennifer.mckee@lee.net or at (406) 447-4069.