Todays Highest Jackpot
US Mega Millions
489 Million (USD$)
Tue, May 28, 2024

Glossary of Lottery terms

Mega Millions - Got your ticket yet?

3-digit game

A numbers game in which three digits between 0 and 9 are selected. Numbers may be repeated.


A retail outlet for lottery tickets.


A prize paid out in installments, typically over 20 or 25 years. (See also 'cash option.')

Box bet

A numbers game wager where the player selects numbers without regard to the order in which they are drawn. For example, if the numbers '1,2,3' are drawn, the combinations '1,2,3', '1,3,2', '2,1,3', '2,3,1', '3,1,2', and '3,2,1' all win under a box bet. (See 'straight bet.')


An instant-win ticket on which the player tears open a flap to see if the ticket is a winner. Also called pulltabs. Breakopens are often sold by charities and occasionally by state lotteries.

Cash lotto

A lotto game (see "Lotto") awarded as a lump-sum cash payment. Cash lotto games typically have a smaller top prize than large jackpot games, more favorable odds of winning that top prize, and require players to select fewer numbers out of a smaller field.

Cash option

A large jackpot that the winner elects to receive as a lump sum cash payment rather than an annuity. (See 'annuity.')


The fee paid to retail outlets for selling lottery tickets. Commissions in North America typically range between 5 percent and 6 percent of the price of the ticket.

Daily game

This can refer to any game where winners are determined once a day, but usually refers to a numbers game such as the 'Daily 3' or 'Daily 4' games played in many states.

4-Digit game

A numbers game played with four digits between 0 and 9. Numbers may be repeated.


The sum of all money wagered at a video lottery terminal. See also 'net machine income.'

Instant game

A lottery ticket that requires the player to remove a latex coating to determine if the ticket is a winner. Also called 'scratch-off game' or 'scratcher.'


The top prize for a lotto game. Jackpots are usually parimutuel. If not won in the next drawing, they 'roll' to the next drawing and increase in size.


A lotto game in which a set of numbers (typically 20) is selected from a large field of numbers (typically 80). Players select a smaller set of numbers (up to 10) and are awarded prizes based on how many of their numbers match those in the drawn set. Players have discretion over how many numbers to select, and can choose to play for a small prize with good odds (by selecting a small set of numbers such as three), a large prize with much greater odds (by selecting a large set of numbers such as 10) or combinations in between. In casinos, and with several lotteries, keno is played at frequent intervals, with drawings as close together as every five minutes. With other lotteries, keno is played as a daily or weekly game.


A game where players select a group of numbers from a large set and are awarded prizes based on how many match a second set chosen by a random drawing. In a typical lotto game, a player might be asked to select six numbers from a set of 49. At a predetermined time six numbers are randomly selected by the lottery. The player wins a major prize if all six of their numbers match those chosen in the random drawing. The player wins smaller prizes for matching three, four, or five of the drawn numbers. Examples of lotto games include Powerball and The Big Game, each played in a number of U.S. jurisdictions, and Canada's Lotto 6/49. Some form of lotto is played in every North American lottery jurisdiction.

Net machine income

The money played at a video lottery terminal ('handle') minus the prizes won at that terminal.

Numbers game

This term can be used for any lottery game where winners are determined by a random selection of numbers. However, it is often used more specifically for a game where a player selects three or four digits (0 to 9) and matches them with a similar set selected at random by the lottery. The player can select several different types of wagers with payoffs varying accordingly. For example, players making a 'straight' bet will win $500 on a $1 bet if their three digits match the three digits selected by the lottery in the same order. Some form of numbers game is played in 31 of the 38 U.S. lottery jurisdictions and four of the five Canadian lotteries.

Off-line game

A game that does not require the use of a computer terminal for purchase. Instant and passive games are examples of off-line games.

Online game

A game where tickets are purchased through a network of computer terminals located at retail outlets. The terminals are linked to a central computer that records the wagers. Examples of on-line games include lotto, keno and numbers games.

Passive game

A lottery game similar to a raffle where a player buys a ticket with preprinted numbers. The lottery later randomly draws numbers that are compared to the players' tickets to determine the outcomes.


sometimes known as 'break-opens' are Lottery tickets with tabs you pull open to reveal cash prizes. Also see 'breakopen.'

Quick pick

A method for playing numbers or online games where players choose to have a computer randomly select their numbers rather than picking the numbers themselves.


An event that occurs when an online game jackpot is not won. The jackpot thus 'rolls over' to the next drawing, resulting in a higher jackpot for that drawing.

Scratch-off game

A lottery ticket that requires the player to remove a latex coating to determine if the ticket is a winner. Also see 'instant game.'


An add-on feature to a lotto game. For an additional fee an extra set of numbers (typically four to six numbers) is printed on the bottom of a ticket. Players win by matching one or more of these numbers to those selected in a random drawing. Spiel games are found throughout Canada but are not yet common in the United States.

Sports lottery

Games where outcomes are determined by the results of sports events. Sports lotteries are the most popular lottery games in much of the world (where they are frequently called 'toto' or 'football pools') but have not achieved this level of popularity in North America. They are offered throughout Canada but in the United States are only sold in Delaware and Oregon.

Straight bet

A form of betting on a numbers game where the player attempts to match both the numbers drawn and the order in which they are selected. For example, if the numbers '1,2,3' are selected in a three-digit game, a ticket bearing '1,2,3' will win but a ticket bearing '2,1,3' will not. (See 'box bet.')


A computerized device located at a lottery retailer that is used to sell online games and to validate winning tickets of online and instant games. Terminals are connected to a lottery's central computers by phone line.

Video Lottery Terminal (VLT)

Electronic games of chance played on a video screen. They often simulate popular casino games such as blackjack, poker, or spinning-reel slot machines. Unlike slot machines, video lottery terminals do not dispense money. Rather, a winning player is provided a ticket that is redeemed by the retailer for prizes.

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