The New Jersey Lottery is one of the biggest lottery systems in the United States, operating since 1970. One of the longest-running lottery games in America, New Jersey Lottery is an oddball in that the profits aren’t funneled into education, instead acting as a supplement to state pension and other retirement programs.
The New Jersey Lottery’s official slogan is “Anything can happen in Jersey.”
The longevity of New Jersey Lottery is because of high interest among the state’s citizens, competition from nearby lottery games, and that gaming has long been a part of state history. Just five years after neighboring states New Hampshire and New York started seeing profits from their young statewide lotto games, New Jersey lawmakers passed state lottery legislation.
These days, New Jerseyites have a wide variety of state-specific games to choose from. The three basic categories of NJ Lottery games are draw games, scratch-off games, and Fast Play games.
The state’s draw games are the traditional lottery contests that most people know about – you select a set of numbers and hope that the numbers drawn by the state match yours.
The current draw lottery games available in New Jersey are:
- Pick-3 w/Fireball
- Jersey Cash 5
- Quick Draw
- Cash Pop
New Jersey also takes part in three multi-jurisdictional lottery draws:
- Mega Millions
Scratch-off tickets are plentiful in the Garden State, and they’re available in the following denominations: $1, $2, $3, $5, $10, $20, $25, and $30.
New Jersey recently launched the Fast Play series of terminal-based instant win games, and they’re sold in these denominations: $1, $2, $3, $5, and $10. A hybrid of slot machine and scratch-off ticket, Fast Play is a new lottery format that’s found in a few other states.
To date, the New Jersey Lottery has awarded cash prizes to more than 93 million people for a total of more than $5 billion in total payouts. That’s an average of about $54 per lottery winner. The New Jersey Lottery’s official website maintains an archive of winner stories that shows off the variety of players and styles.
The purpose of this page is to offer a detailed guide to playing games in the New Jersey Lottery. It covers details of all draws, scratch-off, and instant-play games offered in the state, along with data on return to player percentages that you won’t find elsewhere online. Additionally, look to this page for details and specifics on where and how to buy NJ Lottery tickets, as well as advice on cashing in your winnings.
The Concept of Return to Player and How it Applies to the New Jersey Lottery
“Return to player” refers to a simple mathematical model designed to estimate the value of a gambling game.
Understand that every New Jersey Lottery game is a game of chance, and playing these games is considered gambling. In the gaming industry, probability is used to measure and discuss the likelihood of winning various games. We use the return to player system as one easy way to compare the value of one game of chance relative to another.
Return to player is easy to understand, and thankfully, it’s also the main statistical model used to compare lottery games in different formats or in different states. The return to player statistic tells us something about the actual dollar value of money spent on a particular game.
How do you determine return to player in lottery games?
Multiply the probability of a particular lottery outcome by the specific prize amount for that outcome – that’s your expected return as a player for that outcome.
The next step is to add up the expected returns for all the game’s potential prizes together, and that’s the “return to player” figure for that lottery game.
Here’s a caveat about return to player (sometimes shortened to RTP) – this percentage is mathematical but not necessarily practical. The number tells you what percentage of your money you should lose playing a particular game over a long period of time, technically an infinite one. Since lottery games are entirely dependent on luck, your particular result playing a single NJ Lottery game will vary.
The only way you’d ever see a game’s RTP work out perfectly in real play is if you had an infinite amount of time and money and could just keep playing forever. Eventually, your real-world results would mirror the RTP perfectly.
Want an example of working out RTP in real time?
Let’s say your chosen New Jersey Lottery game has a return to player of 50% – you’d expect to win back $0.50 cents for every $1 ticket you buy, right?
You’d probably only begin to see that 50% payback rate only after thousands of such plays.
To complicate things even further, a game’s RTP fluctuates over short periods of time. That’s because lottery games go up and down depending on winnings.
To deal with these issues, we’ve decided to discuss the RTP figures for New Jersey Lottery games based on the starting jackpot for each game. Using the game’s default jackpot as a baseline makes as much sense as any other starting figure.
Look for information on the return to player percentages of every NJ Lottery game below.
How to Play the New Jersey Lottery (Drawing Schedules and Buying Tickets)
New Jersey Lottery draw games are by far the most popular – they are available in the widest variety and lead to the biggest payouts. We think draw lottery are the most interesting games, and they’re certainly the most traditional. We also offer some coverage of NJ scratch-off and instant win games, but those are simpler games and require a lot less coverage than the major draw lottery games in New Jersey.
This guide to “how to play the New Jersey Lottery” covers everything from the cost of play involved with each game, any available odds and RTP information, and some discussion of available prizes. Where possible, we’ve included information on where, how, and when to claim prizes, and other items of special interest to lottery players in the Garden State.
NJ’s Pick-3 w/Fireball Lottery Game
Pick 3 is a popular draw lottery game style and is represented in the lottery options of many other states. New Jersey’s version isn’t much different from Pick 3 games featured in other big US states.
Here’s how to play:
Pick three numbers between 0 and 9. New Jersey lottery players can also choose the Quick Pick option, allowing a random number generator to pick numbers for you.
You then have to select your bet type. NJ Lottery offers five ways to play Pick-3 with Fireball – straight, box, straight-box, wheel, and pair.
These are different ways for the winning numbers to combine – straight requires you to pick the exact numbers in their exact order, while box allows your numbers to win in any order. The pair bet type pays out on any two winning numbers.
The additional Fireball side wager requires you to double your base bet. During the drawing, a Fireball will be drawn, ranging from 0 – 9. That Fireball number can be used by anyone who placed the side bet to replace any one of the numbers drawn to form winning combinations or to form special Fireball prizes.
Once you’ve selected your bet type, you choose your wager, between $0.50 and $5. New Jersey players then pick which drawing they’re playing – mid-day, evening, or both.
Once your slip is complete, you’ll hand it to the employee at the counter or place it in the proper slot at the NJ Lottery self-service machine.
Here’s the paytable for the Pick-3 game from New Jersey Lottery. Understand that we based the prize amounts on the game’s standard $0.50 bet:
- Match all 3 numbers in exact order (straight) and you win $229. Odds are 1 in 1,000. RTP, 22.9%.
- Match all 3 numbers in any order (box) and you win $38. Odds are 1 in 333. RTP, 11.4%
- Match any pair of winning numbers (pair) and you win $22.50. Odds are 1 in 100. RTP, 22.5%.
Considering the Fireball game, here’s some paytable information:
- Match all 3 numbers in exact order (straight) and you win $91.50. Odds are 1 in 333. RTP, 27.4%.
- Match all 3 numbers in any order (box) and you win $30.50. Odds are 1 in 111. RTP, 27.4%
- Match any pair of winning numbers (pair) and you win $9. Odds are 1 in 33. RTP, 27.2%.
Pick-3 is drawn twice a day, at mid-day (12:59 PM) and in the evening (10:57 PM).
NJ’s Pick-4 Lottery Game
The Pick-4 game in New Jersey is identical to the Pick-3 game but with larger payouts and longer odds thanks to the addition of one digit. The Fireball option and all the betting styles and betting increments are the same, but the paytable is obviously going to be a little different:
- Match all 4 numbers in exact order (straight) and you win $2,500. Odds are 1 in 10,000. RTP, 25%.
- Match all 4 numbers in any order (box) and you win $600. Odds are 1 in 2,500. RTP, 24%
- Match any pair of winning numbers (pair) and you win $25. Odds are 1 in 100. RTP, 25%.
Here’s a look at the paytable for the Fireball version of the Pick-4 game from the New Jersey Lottery:
- Match all 4 numbers in exact order (straight) and you win $687.50. Odds are 1 in 2,500. RTP, 27.5%.
- Match all 4 numbers in any order (box) and you win $171.50. Odds are 1 in 625. RTP, 27.4%
- Match any pair of winning numbers (pair) and you win $6.50. Odds are 1 in 25. RTP, 26%.
New Jersey Lottery draws the Pick-4 game at the same times as the Pick-3 (and every other draw game in their lineup) – twice a day, at mid-day (12:59 PM) and in the evening (10:57 PM).
The Jersey Cash 5 Lottery Game
Cash 5 is the closest thing to the first draw game in NJ’s history, a straightforward draw contest with one simple available side bet.
Each ticket costs $1 and asks you to pick five numbers between 1 and 45. Quick Pick is available. At this point, you’ll need to decide if you want to make the XTRA side bet, for another $1. The XTRA option will increase any non-jackpot prize you win by a randomly chosen multiplier, so long as you match at least three of the Jersey Cash 5 numbers drawn twice each day. If you only match two numbers, you’ll still win a bonus from XTRA – $2, essentially a push outcome where you win back your initial wager.
Prizes are awarded to bettors who match 3, 4, or all 5 of the Jersey Cash 5 numbers according to the paytable below:
- Match 5 numbers and win the jackpot, $75,000 minimum. Odds are 1 in 1,221,759. RTP, 6.1%.
- Match 4 numbers and win $500. Odds are 1 in 6,109. RTP, 8.1%.
- Match 3 numbers and win $15. Odds are 1 in 157. RTP, 9.5%.
Bettors who choose the XTRA option have a slightly different paytable, as outlined below:
- Match 4 numbers and win $1,000 – $2,500, depending on multiplier.
- Match 3 numbers and win $30-$75, depending on multiplier.
- Match 2 numbers and win $2, with no multiplier.
NJ’s Pick-6 Lottery Game
Pick-6 is New Jersey’s largest draw game. Bettors select six numbers between 1 and 49. The XTRA option is available on this game, for more information on that check out the details in our breakdown of Pick-5 above.
The paytable for the New Jersey Lottery Pick-6 game is below:
- Match 6 numbers and win the jackpot, $2 million minimum. Odds are 1 in 13,983,816. RTP, 14.3%.
- Match 5 numbers and win $2,700. Odds are 1 in 54,201. RTP, 4.9%.
- Match 4 numbers and win $56. Odds are 1 in 1,032. RTP, 5.4%.
- Match 3 numbers and win $3. Odds are 1 in 57. RPT, 5.2%.
NJ’s Quick Draw Lottery Game
Quick Draw is a hybrid of traditional draw lottery games and the casino game keno. The name comes from the fact that you can play and see results every five minutes. New Jersey draws for Quick Draw 200 times a day, pretty much all day, from 5 AM to 1 AM.
Prizes for this game are fixed, unlike some other NJ Lottery products, and range from $2 to $100,000.
Bettors play by filling out a Quick Draw slip. The process goes like this:
- Choose how many numbers (called spots) you want to play per game.
- Select your numbers from a range of 1 through 80.
- Quick Draw players can choose the Quick Pick option to have a random number generator select numbers for them. If you want to use Quick Pick on this game, there’s a box for you to check.
- Select how much you want to wager per draw.
- Select how many consecutive game draws you want to bet on – you can play anywhere from a single draw up to 20 consecutive plays. Your total wager is the amount bet per draw multiplied by the amount player per draw.
- You now have the option of placing an optional bet called BULLSEYE. If you select the BULLSEYE option, and win a prize, it will be increased by anywhere from 2-4x. The BULLSEYE option doubles the cost of your bet.
- If you didn’t choose BULLSEYE, you can choose to add the MULTIPLIER option. The MULTIPLIER will increase any prizes by a random amount between 1X, and 10X. Like with BULLSEYE, your wager is doubled if you add MULTIPLIER. Please note, you’re not allowed to choose both options.
- Once you’ve confirmed your bet, hand it over to your NJ Lottery retailer and wait for the results to come in.
Quick Draw games pay out if you match 0 numbers or any amount between 5 and 10, according to the paytable below:
- Match 10 numbers and win $100,000.
- Match 9 numbers and win $5,000.
- Match 8 numbers and win $300.
- Match 7 numbers and win $45.
- Match 6 numbers and win $10.
- Match 5 numbers and win $2.
- Match 0 numbers and win $5.
NJ Lottery hasn’t released detailed odds information for this game, saying only that overall odds of winning on the base game are 1 in 9.05. With the added BULLSEYE option (which pays out small prizes for matching any number of spots), those odds drop slightly to 1 in 8.
NJ’s Cash Pop Lottery Game
Cash Pop is an unusual draw lottery game in that it pays out based on a single number.
Here’s a brief guide to how to play Cash Pop:
- Pick your number or numbers from the game’s 1 – 15 range. You can bet between 1 and 15 spots, with a convenient “Cover All” option that automatically selects all 15 numbers.
- Should you choose, you can have a computer select your numbers randomly using Quick Pick.
- Now it’s time to select your bet amount – that means wagering $1, $2, $5, or $10 for each number you play. The prizes for each dollar amount vary, with the largest payouts coming from $10-per-spot wagers.
- Now choose how many draws you want to play. Cash Pop allows you to play between 1 and 4 draws with the same numbers.
- Be sure to turn your play slip back in to your NJ Lottery retailer.
Cash Pop numbers are drawn every fifteen minutes between 5:30 AM and 1 AM.
Prizes vary depending on a random prize amount established at the time of the drawing and depending on your wager. Below is the paytable for the basic game at a $1 per spot wager:
- $5 prize – odds are 1 in 31, for an RTP of 16.1%.
- $7 prize – odds are 1 in 75, for an RTP of 9.3%.
- $10 prize – odds are 1 in 105, for an RTP of 9.5%.
- $15 prize – odds are 1 in 180, for an RTP of 8.3%.
- $20 prize – odds are 1 in 270, for an RTP of 7.4%.
- $25 prize – odds are 1 in 900, for an RTP of 2.7%.
- $50 prize – odds are 1 in 2,250, for an RTP of 2.2%.
- $100 prize – odds are 1 in 4,500, for an RTP of 2.2%.
- $250 prize – odds are 1 in 8,250, for an RTP of 3%.
The payouts increase with your wager, so that the top prize available (for a $10 bet) is $2,500.
Cash4Life in New Jersey
The purpose of multi-jurisdictional games is to create larger pools of players who will play together to build larger jackpots than might be available in a single state. Cash4Life’s big gimmick is that winners will be paid out some portion of their prize every week (or in some cases every year) for the rest of their lives.
It’s similar to another multi-jurisdiction game called Lucky for Life, though New Jersey has chosen to opt into the smaller Cash4Life pool over the more popular Lucky for Life game.
To play Cash4Life, you buy a ticket at any authorized state lottery retailer. The tickets cost $2 each. Similar to other draw games, you’re asked to choose five numbers from a specific range, in this case between 1 and 60. Bettors also choose a special sixth number in a very short range – between 1 and 4.
Cash4Life drawings produce five white balls numbered from 1 to 60 and a green ball numbered from 1 to 4. The green ball is the Cash Ball, and it leads to the famous “$1,000 a day for the rest of your life” prize that Cash4Life gets its name from. Winners of the jackpot match all five balls and the cash ball.
Winners are given a choice between the “$1,000 a day” prize and a lump-sum $7 million payment. We did some quick math and found that the $7 million lump sum makes sense if you don’t think you’ll live longer than 19 years. Live 20 years or longer, and you the $1,000 a day would’ve been a lot more lucrative. That’s without working out the taxes and such, so it’s a loose guide.
There’s a secondary jackpot in Cash4Life – should you match all five white balls but miss the Cash Ball, you can choose between $1,000 a week for the rest of your life or a lump sum of $1 million. The same rule applies – if you think you’ll live for 20 years or more, you should avoid the lump sum and claim more cash over the life of the payout.
Cash4Life is drawn every night at 9pm and in New Jersey are broadcast on NJN, the New Jersey Network.
Cash4Life’s paytable looks like this:
- Match 5 numbers plus Cash Ball, win $1,000 a day for life (odds of winning, 1 in 21,846,048)
- Match 5 numbers but no Cash Ball, win $1,000 a week for life (odds of winning, 1 in 7,282,016)
- Match 4 numbers plus Cash Ball, win $2,500 (odds of winning, 1 in 79,440)
- Match 4 numbers but no Cash Ball, win $500 (odds of winning, 1 in 26,480)
- Match 3 numbers plus Cash Ball, win $100 (odds of winning, 1 in 1,471)
- Match 3 numbers but no Cash Ball, win $25 (odds of winning,1 in 490)
- Match 2 numbers plus Cash Ball, win $10 (odds of winning, 1 in 83)
- Match 2 numbers but no Cash Ball, win $4 (odds of winning, 1 in 28)
- Match 1 number plus Cash Ball, win $2 – (odds of winning, 1 in 13)
A quick analysis of these numbers:
When you play Cash4Life, you’ll win some kind of prize (between $2 and $1,000 a day for life) about 13% of the time.
The return to player for the $2 prize in the game is 15.38%. How’d we get that? We just multiplied the $2 prize by 1/13, the odds of winning as stated by the state’s lottery commission. That gives us a sum of 2/13, or 15.38%. That’s the return to player for that bet.
You can do this for any prize you’re curious about. For example, the $10 prize multiplied by 1/83 produces an RTP of 14.29%.
We ran the RTP numbers for each bet, added them together, and found that the total return to player for the Cash4Life game is 52.21%. Theoretically, given enough time, you’ll win back about $0.26 for every $2 Cash4Life ticket you purchase.
Mega Millions and Powerball in New Jersey
Our site includes more-detailed guides for both Mega Millions and Powerball lottery games. This page will focus just a bit on how New Jerseyans can participate in these wildly popular multi-jurisdictional games, but for more information, check out our deeper dives on both games.
Mega Millions and Powerball are the closest thing to nationwide lottery products we have in America. These are the most popular multi-jurisdictional lottery games in the country and are now available in a majority of US states, alongside those state’s in-house lottery games. New Jersey is a long-time participant in both games, going back to the late 90s.
Tickets for both Powerball and Mega Millions cost $2 each, which is $1 more than the $1 low end for most state-based lottery games.
Mega Millions requires bettors to pick five numbers in a range from 1 to 70, as well as a sixth number in a range from 1 and 25. The five main numbers are displayed on plain white balls, but that special sixth number will pop up on a gold-colored ball, known as “Mega Ball.”
Mega Millions resets to $20 million and grows until there’s at least one overall winner. The game was forced to condense a bit during the global coronavirus pandemic, at one time resetting to a $40 million pot. At the new lower rest amount, the return to player percentage for Mega Millions is about 20%, but obviously that percentage grows with the top prize.
Mega Millions allows a $1 side bet called “Megaplier” that increases any non-jackpot win between 2 and 5 times, as decidedly random at the time of the draw.
If you understand the Mega Millions system, you understand Powerball. One key difference between the two games is that Powerball has one fewer number, allowing bettors to choose between 1 and 69. The Mega Ball from Mega Millions is replaced by the Powerball, numbered between 1 and 26.
Powerball’s version of the Mega Millions Megaplier is called Power Play, and it’s similar in that it costs you an extra buck alongside your bet, but the multiplier in Powerball increases your prize by between 2 and 10 times, not 2 and 5.
Since Powerball’s starting jackpot is now $20 million, just like Mega Millions, the two games have a similar payback percentage – about 20%.
New Jerseyites have been playing these two multi-jurisdictional games for more than two decades, and many of the largest jackpots paid out by these systems were based on tickets sold in the Garden State.
New Jersey Scratch-Off Tickets
81 scratch-off tickets are now available from the NJ Lottery system. They range in price from $1 to $30 each, and the available prizes on all 81 of these tickets range from $1 up to $3 million. You can take a deeper look at current and former New Jersey scratch-off lottery tickets here.
New Jersey Lottery History
In late 1969, voters in the Garden State passed a resolution establishing a state lottery system. The purpose of the lottery was to raise funds for the retirement benefits of state employees – police, firefighters, teachers, and other employees working for the public good.
The first New Jersey Lottery ticket sold went to then-Governor William T. Cahill.
The state saw the creation of its first lottery millionaire just three months after launch, with a couple from West Caldwell choosing 20 years of $50,000 annuity payments over a lump-sum amount.
New Jersey Lottery has been part of several important “firsts” in the lottery gaming industry. New Jersey released the country’s first instant-win game in 1975, the same year the state went live with its unique “online” game Pick-It. Pick-6 Lotto, another lottery game invented in New Jersey, became the first state lotto program of any kind to reach $1 billion in total sales, and the game produced that sales record in just under six years.
New Jersey was an early member of Mega Millions, joining as just the eighth member state in 1999. In 2010, New Jersey was part of a large wave of states joining Powerball.
In 2020, as part of the state’s celebration of the New Jersey Lottery’s fiftieth anniversary, organizers revealed that they’d paid out almost $30 billion to state pension plans since launching in 1970.
Contact the New Jersey Lottery
You can find complete contact details for the NJ Lottery on their official website: https://www.njlottery.com/en-us/aboutus/contactus.html
New Jersey Lottery offices are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The state’s COVID-19 restrictions require you to make an appointment before you visit.
The mailing address and phone number for the New Jersey Lottery follow:
New Jersey Lottery
P.O. Box 041
Trenton, NJ 08625-0041
Attn: <Add Department>
The New Jersey Lottery is a long-running and successful state-sanctioned gambling program that’s been at the forefront of big changes in the industry. Its game variety rivals the best American state lotteries, and the state has shown willingness to tweak and refine games when they don’t pan out the way the lottery commission expected. The return to player rates for NJ Lottery games is at least comparable to other state lottery programs, and in some cases offers high-value lottery play for lottery fans looking for an advantage.
New Jersey is a gambling-friendly state, among the most amenable to games of chance and skill nationwide. Because of that, and because of the amount of support provided to state pension funds over the years, it’s likely that the state’s influential lottery services will continue to innovate and entertain New Jerseyans long into the future.