By Randy Ray
Launched in July 1989, in the middle of the second wave of US lottery expansion, Idaho Lottery offers a large game library and a bunch of playing options. The state’s $277 million in annual lottery sales produce about $70 million in annual revenue which is distributed evenly between the state’s education system and general building fund. In the Idaho Lottery’s three decades of existence, more than $1 billion has been added to education budgets directly from sales of lottery tickets.
The story of the Idaho lottery is one of the general public’s demand for lottery games outweighing the anti-lottery inclinations of a couple of state judges. Though all forms of gambling had been declared illegal in Idaho in 1953, public demand for a state lottery system came to a head in late 1988 as nearby states set up successful lottery programs. The state’s first lottery ticket sale came in July of 1989, just 200 days after the state’s voters approved lottery play.
Here’s the complete list of lottery games for sale in Idaho:
- 5 Star Draw
- Idaho Cash
- Weekly Grand
- Pick 3
- Pick 4
- Mega Millions
- Lotto America
- Lucky For Life
- Scratch Games
- InstaPlay Games
- Tab Games
- $1,000,000 Idaho Lottery Raffle
Idaho has an outsized influence on the US lottery landscape. With just over 1.8 million citizens, the state of Idaho is smaller than the country’s six biggest cities. However, Idaho’s lottery is a model of success, boasting high participation rates among adult Idahoans, with a low cost (just a cent or two per dollar played goes to administration costs) and a solid reputation as a revenue producer for the state’s schools.
Proof of Idaho’s exceptional place in the American lottery scene – the Idaho Lottery was the first to offer second-chance drawings for instant win tickets, the first to host a VIP club rewarding loyal customers with merchandise and other offers, and the first to allow players to donate a portion of winnings to non-profit organizations. All three of these features are now standard in other American lottery systems, and they were all kickstarted in humble Idaho.
Most Idaho Lottery players choose instant scratch tickets, which represent about 60% of all revenue. Idaho’s pull-tab games are the smallest in terms of revenue, producing about 1% of the state’s lottery income. Multi-state draw games are also big sellers, with Powerball and Mega Millions leading the pack.
Probability, Return to Player, and the Idaho Lottery
Probability and return to player are important factors in lottery play. State lottery programs publish things like game odds and claimed prizes in the interest of fairness. Lottery players would be wise to pay attention to these statistics, and eventually incorporate them into their strategy.
The first figure that’s important to understand is return to player, also known as RTP. A lottery game’s RTP is expressed as a percentage of potential winnings on each dollar bet on a lottery game. If a lottery game’s RTP is 25%, you would theoretically win $0.25 back for every $1 in ticket purchases.
Look at the Idaho Lottery scratch game called 10 Million Cash. It’s a $30 ticket, with overall odds of winning listed at 1 in 2.99. That implies people who buy that ticket should win about 33.44% of the time. Should you literally expect to win on 1/3 of 10 Million Cash tickets you buy? No – that’s not how gambling math works.
When it comes to games of chance, the math that supports the game produces theoretical figures, representations of reality that don’t necessarily predict real world results. It’s within the realm of possibility to win on your first three 10 Million Cash tickets in a row, which is way more than 33% win-rate. It’s also within the realm of possibility that you could buy 6 10 Million Cash tickets and lose six times in a row. That’s how gambling works.
It’s important to remember that the math behind these games is theoretical, especially when game odds and other statistics come up. Please remember that these figures are estimates, and they aren’t in any way a guarantee of your actual performance or results.
How to Play the Idaho Lottery (Drawing Schedules & Buying Tickets)
Idaho Lottery participates in four multi-state games, hosts six in-state lottery draws, and is home to hundreds of options for scratch cards and other instant win games.
Below is a short guide to each game available from Idaho Lottery, including drawing schedules, odds, payouts, and other details.
Idaho’s 2by2 is a daily draw game with a special win multiplier on Tuesday draws. The daily cutoff for ticket purchases is 7:55 PM Mountain Time, with drawings twenty minutes later at 8:15 MT. Tickets cost $1. Players can play up to 7 drawings in advance.
To play 1by1, you pick four balls total, two red and two white. The goal is to match both red and both white balls to the numbers drawn. On Tuesday, all wins are doubled for players who purchase a seven-day consecutive drawing ticket.
Here’s the pay table for Idaho Lottery’s 2by2:
- Match all four balls to win $22,000 – odds of 1 in 105,625
- Match 1 red ball and both white balls to win $200 – odds of 1 in 2,201
- Match both red balls and one white ball to win $200 – odds of 1 in 2,201
- Match both red balls to win $3 – odds of 1 in 383
- Match both white balls to win $3 – odds of 1 in 383
- Match one of each color ball to win $3 – odds of 1 in 46
- Match one red or one white ball to win a free ticket – odds of 1 in 8
Your overall odds of winning any prize on 2by2: 1 in 3.59, or a winning ticket on about 27% of tickets you buy.
5 Star Draw
Idaho Lottery’s flagship draw game, and longest-lived lottery game in general, is 5 Star Draw. It’s based on traditional draw lottery rules but offers a couple of fun wrinkles. For example, each play costs $1, but when you buy the max number of plays (5 on a single ticket), you only pay $4. That’s one free play per $4 spent, which is among the best deals in the US lottery industry.
Another interesting wrinkle – every play is technically two chances to win. That means that $4 ticket is good for 10 plays in total, making the total cost just $0.40 for a chance at an ever-increasing jackpot.
The game is drawn every Tuesday and Friday at 8 PM Mountain Time; ticket sales are cut off at 7:40 PM Mountain Time.
Here’s the current pay table based on the game’s minimum jackpot of $250,000:
- Match all five numbers to win $250,000 – odds of 1 in 610,880
- Match four numbers to win $1,000 – odds of 1 in 3,054
- Match three numbers to win $20 – odds of 1 in 78
- Match two numbers to win $5 – odds of 1 in 6
Your overall odds of winning any prize: 1 in 6, or a win on about 16.5% of all tickets you buy.
Very similar to 5 Star Draw, Idaho Cash is a $1 game with daily draws at 8 PM MT. Each ticket is good for two plays. Players pick five numbers between 1 and 45; the goal is to match all five balls to win the jackpot.
Here’s the pay table for Idaho Cash based on the minimum jackpot of $20,000:
- Match all five balls to win $20,000 – odds of 1 in 610,880
- Match four balls to win $200 – odds of 1 in 3,054
- Match three balls to win $5 – odds of 1 in 78
- Match two balls to win a free ticket – odds of 1 in 6
Overall odds of winning any prize on Idaho Cash are 1 in 5.7, or a win on about 17.5% of tickets purchased.
Idaho Cash has slightly better overall odds, but a smaller jackpot, and since the odds of winning the much-larger 5 Star Draw jackpot are the same, advantage players should probably stick to that other more lucrative draw game.
Idaho’s Weekly Grand has a unique top prize – $1,000 a week for a year. Weekly Grand tickets cost $2, and you can play up to 35 consecutive draws with a single ticket. Winners are drawn daily at 8 PM Mountain Time. To play, bettors pick five numbers between 1 and 32.
Here’s the pay table for Idaho Lottery’s Weekly Grand:
- Match all five numbers to win $1,000 a week for a year (all taxes paid) – odds of 1 in 201,376
- Match four numbers to win $200 – odds of 1 in 1,492
- Match three numbers to win $25 – odds of 1 in 57
- Match two numbers to win a free ticket – odds of 1 in 7
Overall odds of winning any prize on Idaho Lottery’s Weekly Grand: 1 in 6.12, or a win on about 16% of tickets you buy.
Pick 3 & Pick 4
Idaho Lottery has two traditional Pick-style games called Pick 3 and Pick 4. These games are similar enough to cover together.
Pick 3’s top prize is $500. Pick 4’s top prize is $5,000. Both games allow multiple forms of wagering and a variety of bet sizes, starting at just $1. For more details on the various betting combinations available for these games, it’s best you take it straight from the source – here’s Idaho Lottery’s How to Play page for Pick 3 and Pick 4.
Powerball & Mega Millions
Idaho joined the MUSL in 1990, started offering Powerball in 1992, and added Mega Millions in 2010. These two games are by far the largest and most popular draw lottery games in America, with most US lottery programs participating in at least one of them. These two draw games are similar enough to each other to be covered in a single section.
For example, both games cost $2 to play, and they both offer a $1 multiplier option. That makes the total outlay for either game $2 to $3. The goal for both games is to match your six numbers to the six numbers drawn randomly by the game’s operators. When you play Mega Millions, you pick between the numbers 1 and 70; in Powerball, the numbers are between 1 and 69. This slight difference in the number pool leads to an equally slight difference in overall game odds, making the two games just about the same in terms of probability.
Compare the pay tables for the two games to see further evidence of their similarity:
Mega Millions Pay Table
- Match all six balls to win the jackpot (min. $20 million) – odds of 1 in 302.5 million
- Match all five balls to win $1 million – odds of 1 in 12.6 million
- Match four balls and the Mega Ball to win $10,000 – odds of 1 in 931,000
- Match four balls to win $500 – odds of 1 in 38,792
- Match three balls and the Mega Ball to win $200 – odds of 1 in 14,547
- Match three balls to win $10 – odds of 1 in 606
- Match two balls and the Mega Ball to win $10 – odds of 1 in 693
- Match one ball and the Mega Ball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 89
- Match the Mega Ball to win $2 – odds of 1 in 24
The odds of winning any prize on a Mega Millions ticket: 1 in 24, meaning a player should theoretically win on about 4.2% of all tickets purchased.
Powerball Pay Table
- Match all six balls to win the jackpot (min. $20 million) – odds of 1 in 292.2 million
- Match five balls to win $1 million – odds of 1 in 11.68 million
- Match four balls and the Powerball to win $50,000 – odds of 1 in 913,000
- Match four balls to win $100 – odds of 1 in 36,525.17
- Match three balls and the Powerball to win $100 – odds of 1 in 14,494.11
- Match three balls to win $7 – odds of 1 in 579.76
- Match two balls and the Powerball to win $7 – odds of 1 in 701.33
- Match one ball and the Powerball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 91.98
- Match the Powerball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 38.32
The odds of winning any prize on a Powerball ticket: 1 in 24.87 or about 4% of all tickets purchased.
Idaho Lottery is one of a baker’s dozen of small state lottery programs that have joined together for Lotto America. It’s a multi-state draw game that’s growing in popularity, relatively new to the scene, and paying out more modest prizes than the biggest names in the game. Lotto America’s jackpot resets to $1 million.
A Lotto America ticket costs just $1, and as with other multi-state draw games, you can add another $1 to activate a win multiplier option.
Here’s the current pay table and odds information for Lotto America:
- Match all six balls to win the jackpot – odds of 1 in 25.9 million
- Match five balls to win $20,000 – odds of 1 in 2.8 million
- Match four balls and the Star Ball to win $1,000 – odds of 1 in 110,000
- Match four balls to win $100 – odds of 1 in 12,288
- Match three balls and the Star Ball to win $20 – odds of 1 in 2,404
- Match three balls to win $5 – odds of 1 in 267
- Match two balls and the Star Ball to win $5 – odds of 1 in 160
- Match one ball and the Star Ball to win $2 – odds of 1 in 29
- Match just the Star Ball to win $1 – odds of 1 in 16.9
The overall odds of winning any prize on a Lotto America ticket: 1 in 9.63, which means you should theoretically expect to win on about 10% of all tickets you buy.
Lucky For Life
Idaho Lottery participates in Lucky for Life along with 22 other US states. Lucky for Life has a unique jackpot, which is a fixed annuitized payout worth $1,000 a day “for life.” The game’s other prizes are traditional fixed jackpots, as laid out below in the pay table.
Lucky for Life tickets cost $2 in Idaho. To play, bettors pick 5 numbers between 1 and 48 along with a Lucky Ball between 1 and 18.
Payouts are determined by the number of matches according to the pay table below:
- Match all six balls and win $1,000 a day for life – odds of 1 in 30.8 million
- Match 5 balls and win $25,000 a year for life – odds of 1 in 1.8 million
- Match 4 balls with the Lucky Ball and win $5,000 – odds of 1 in 143,355
- Match 4 balls and win $200 – odds of 1 in 8,432
- Match 3 balls with the Lucky Ball, win $150 – odds of 1 in 3,413
- Match 3 balls and win $20 – odds of 1 in 200
- Match 2 balls with the Lucky Ball, win $25 – odds of 1 in 249
- Match 2 balls and win $3 – odds of 1 in 14
- Match 1 ball with the Lucky Ball and win $6 – odds of 1 in 49
- Match only the Lucky Ball and win $4 – odds of 1 in 32
Your overall odds of winning any prize on Lucky for Life are 1 out of every 8 tickets, or a win on about 12.5% of all tickets purchased. Those are decent odds for a multi-state draw game, and a big reason why Lucky for Life is the most popular draw game in Idaho besides the big two Mega Millions and Powerball.
Idaho Lottery scratch games come in seven denominations. Here’s a look at how many games of each denomination there are, along with their average odds of winning:
- 4 $1 games – average odds of 1 in 4.4
- 5 $2 games – average odds of 1 in 4.1
- 6 $3 games – average odds of 1 in 3.82
- 10 $5 games – average odds of 1 in 3.8
- 7 $10 games – average odds of 1 in 3.48
- 3 $20 games – average odds of 1 in 3.26
- 2 $30 games – average odds of 1 in 2.99
Let’s zoom in on one popular scratch game to get a sense of how these games operate:
Copy Cat Cashword is a $3 ticket with a top prize of $30,000 and posted overall odds of winning of 3.32. The goal is to uncover at least three completed words in the crossword puzzle on the game’s face. Your prize depends on the number of correct words you uncover as well as any bonus symbols uncovered.
Here’s the pay table:
- $30,000 – odds of 1 in 476,100
- $1,000 – odds of 1 in 317,400
- $200 – odds of 1 in 2,957
- $130 – odds of 1 in 2,473
- $100 – odds of 1 in 7,325
- $60 – odds of 1 in 1,193
- $30 – odds of 1 in 209
- $20 – odds of 1 in 200
- $15 – odds of 1 in 100
- $10 – odds of 1 in 33
- $6 – odds of 1 in 25
- $5 – odds of 1 in 14
- $3 – odds of 1 in 7
Idaho Lottery’s InstaPlay games are similar to traditional lottery scratch cards in that you’ll know if you won or not right away. They differ from scratch cards because there’s no scratching involved. These are instant win games printed by an Idaho Lottery kiosk that win or lose as soon as they’re printed.
At the time of this post, six denominations are available:
- $1 games
- $2 games
- $3 games
- $5 games
- $10 games
- $20 games
Idaho Lottery currently offers 17 different InstaPlay games at lottery kiosks statewide.
For a sense of the odds on these instant win games, consider Bee Mine, a popular $1 InstaPlay game with a $500 top prize. The state lists overall odds of 1 in 3.36, implying you’ll win just about 30% of the time.
Here’s the prizes available on Bee Mine tickets along with their listed odds:
- $500 – 1 in 12,500
- $50 – 1 in 1,429
- $25 – 1 in 500
- $7 – 1 in 200
- $3 – 1 in 50
- $2 – 1 in 8
- $1 – 1 in 7
Idaho Lottery sells pull-tab instant win games in four denominations:
- $0.50 games
- $1 games
- $2 games
- $3 games
As of the time of this post, Idaho Lottery sells 37 different pull-tab games. Generally speaking, the higher the cost of the game, the larger your overall odds. For example, the average odds of winning on a $0.50 tab game is 1 in 4.7, while the average odds of winning on the state’s $3 tab games is 1 in 3.8.
The games are simple, based somewhat on typical scratch card play, with top prizes ranging from $100 to $1,000.
$1,000,000 Idaho Lottery Raffle
Starting each October, Idaho Lottery hosts a holiday raffle with a top prize of $1 million. Each ticket costs $10, with a limit of 250,000 tickets sold. Idaho Lottery incentivizes ticket purchases with 10 early-bird giveaways of $1,000 to raffle ticket purchasers between October and December. Also, every 25,000th ticket sold rewards the purchaser with an instant $1,000 prize.
Where to Buy Idaho Lottery Tickets
According to the Idaho Lottery’s Where to Play tool, more than 900 retailers are licensed to sell Idaho Lottery games. Idaho’s population is concentrated in four urban areas, most of which are in the state’s southern portion. Lottery retailers are also clustered in these four heavy population areas – Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello, and Couer d’Alene. Take note that not all game styles are available at all retailers. The tool linked above allows you to filter by game type, city, and zip code.
How to Claim Idaho Lottery Prizes
You have 180 days to claim Idaho Lottery prizes – that means 180 days after the date of a lottery draw game and 180 days after the end date of a scratch card, pull tab, or other instant game.
Prizes of $599 or less can be claimed at any Idaho Lottery retailer, though these merchants have the right to refuse to pay a claim based on the amount of cash in the till. You’re better off going to larger licensed lottery retailers, like grocery stores, to claim prizes of more than $100 or so.
If your prize is worth $600 or more, you’ll need to fill out an Idaho Lottery winning ticket claim form, available here. This form includes instructions on what else to add to the form to claim your prize.
All prizes can be claimed in person at Idaho Lottery Headquarters, located at 1199 Shoreline Lane, Suite 100, in Boise. Normal business hours apply, and the office advises calling ahead to be sure the office is open and able to receive claimants.
If you’re claiming a prize of $5,000 or more, be aware that Idaho is one of a handful of states that withhold state income taxes on top of the federally mandated tax on lottery prizes of $5,000 or more. Idaho’s tax rate on lottery winnings is 6.92%, on top of the federal rate of 24%. That means all prizes of $5,000 or more that you win in Idaho will automatically incur a 30.92% tax rate. Only nine states withhold more in taxes than Idaho.
Contact the Idaho Lottery
Between the hours of 8:30 and 5:30 Mountain Time on Monday through Friday, you can reach a live human being at 208-334-2600.
The mailing address for Idaho Lottery is:
P.O. Box 6537
Boise, ID 83707-6537
Idaho Lottery operates a 24-hour winning numbers hotline at 208-334-4656.
Idahoans spend about $170 per person on lottery tickets – that’s good enough for a top-20 finish nationally. Per capita winnings on the Idaho Lottery average around $125.86. The $44 and change difference between spending and winnings represents the state’s take, a healthy $270 million a year that goes to support various education programs and school building operations around the state. There’s no big news on the horizon for Idaho Lottery – the state legislature doesn’t seem to be seriously considering adopting sports betting, as other neighboring states have done, and there’s no evidence that any new games are being considered. Idaho Lottery is a success, an example of what a powerful lottery program can do for a state, even in the context of a relatively small and rural population
Wes Burns is a co-founder of USLottery.com, bringing his nearly 15 years of expertise in the gambling industry as an author, researcher, journalist, and analyst to the US lottery market.