By Randy Ray
The Ohio Lottery (official site), which launched in 1974, is one of the older lotteries in the United States. The Lottery is one of the biggest in the United States, too – in draw game sales, Ohio is 6th in the nation. The state also ranks 11th in instant game sales.
The Ohio Lottery offers multiple draw games and and scratch off games.
Draw games available through the Ohio Lottery include:
- Classic Lotto
- Lucky for Life
- Mega Millions
- Pick 3
- Pick 4
- Pick 5
- Rolling Cash 5
You can also play instant win games called EZPLAY games. These resemble slot machine games but are played with paper tickets rather than spinning reels on a video screen.
Scratch off tickets are also instant games, but they require you to scratch the silvery ink off the cards to find out if you’ve won. In a sense, these instant tickets are less “instant” than EZPLAY games.
And, Ohio offers keno, which is usually a private lottery-style game found in casinos.
Ohio, like most states, participates in the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), which is the consortium that allows players to participate in Mega Millions and Powerball.
The Ohio Lottery Commission is the organizing body that oversees the lottery in the state. Per an Ohio state constitutional amendment from 1987, the funds from the lottery are earmarked for educational spending.
This page aims to supply the player with a comprehensive resource for how to play the lottery in Ohio. It includes details for each game and how to play it as well as analysis of the math behind each game. You’ll also find information about where to buy tickets and claim prizes.
The Payback Percentage and the Ohio Lottery
You can use multiple terms to describe how much of a mathematical edge the lottery has over the player – some people call it the “total return,” while others call it the “payback (or payout) percentage.” This page uses “payback percentage,” but other terms – like “expected return” — are the same thing.
This payback percentage is the mathematically predicted amount you’ll get back when buying a lottery ticket. It’s a function of the prize amounts and the probability of getting each prize.
And this is important — it’s a long-term expectation.
In the short run, you’ll either see a small loss ($1 or $2) or a moderate win.
And you’ll also sometimes see a huge payout, but that’s the rarest of outcomes.
If you play long enough and track the average amount you win back per ticket, it will eventually look much like the mathematically predicted amount.
The payback percentage is the total return for the game expressed as a percentage. If you play a game with a payback percentage of 50%, for example, you’ll win back an average of 50 cents per $1 ticket – on average, over the long run.
One of the more interesting ways of looking at lottery games is in terms of the payback percentage. This information isn’t available on most sites, but it’s available here.
How to Play the Ohio Lottery – Games and Drawing Schedules
This section looks first at the various draw games available through the Ohio Lottery. The other 2 types of lottery games available in Ohio – scratch offs and EZPLAY games – are covered next, and in that order.
For draw games, you choose a specific set of numbers from a set of options, and if the numbers you choose match the numbers randomly drawn by the Lottery Commission, you win the prize. The more numbers you get right, the bigger the prize amount – up to the jackpot for that game.
The Classic Lotto is about as standard a draw game as you’ll find. The top jackpot starts at $1 million and grows until someone wins the jackpot. The Ohio Lottery guarantees that it will grow by at least $100,000 a week regardless of ticket sales.
It costs $1 to play, and you choose 6 numbers from between 1 and 49. You can choose your own numbers or use the auto pick option. The latter uses a random number generator program to pick a set of numbers for you. There’s no advantage to either method; the odds of winning are the same either way.
The Classic Lotto drawings happen every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 7:05pm.
Here’s the paytable for the base game:
- Match all 6 numbers to win the jackpot of at least $1 million – the odds of winning are 1 in 13,983,816
- Match 5 out of 6 numbers and win the 2nd prize of $1500 – the odds of winning are 1 in 54,201.
- Match 4 out of 6 numbers and win the 3rd prize of $70 – the odds of winning are 1 in 1032
- Match 3 out of 6 numbers and win 4th prize, $2 – the odds of winning are 1 in 57.
To calculate the payback percentage for the game, you look at the expected return for each prize. That’s the size of the prize multiplied by the probability of winning that prize. When you add the expected return for all the possible outcomes, you get the total payback percentage for the game.
In the case of Classic Lotto, the payback percentage is 20.21%. If you bought every possible combination of numbers, and no one else played the game, you’d get back $20.21 for every $100 you spent.
But the payback percentage for the game rises along with the size of the jackpot. When the jackpot reaches $12 million, for example, the payback percentage for the game is 98.87%. When the jackpot reaches $13 million, the payback percentage is 106.02%.
With a payback percentage of over 100%, you’re playing a game where you expect (mathematically) to be profitable in the long run. The problem with that way of thinking in a lottery game has to do with the incredibly long odds of winning the top prize.
The odds of being struck by lightning this year are 1 in 500,000, which means that you’re almost 30 times more likely to be hit by lightning than you are to win the jackpot.
But Classic Lotto has more to offer than that. You also have the option of adding a “kicker” for $1. This is a side bet with a potential $100,000 prize.
Here’s how it works:
When you buy your Classic Lotto ticket, you pay an extra $1 to also play the kicker game. The computer generates a 6-digit kicker number on your ticket.
The drawing for the kicker is held immediately after the Classic Lotto drawing, and it’s basically a separate game. The only catch is that you can only play the kicker if you’re already playing the main game.
Here’s the paytable for the kicker option:
- Match 6 (KICKER) – $100,000 – 1 in 1 million
- Match 5 (KICKE) – $5000 – 1 in 111,111
- Match 4 (KICK) – $1000 – 1 in 11,111
- Match 3 (KIC) – $100 – 1 in 1111
- Match 2 (KI) – $10 – 1 in 111
The payback percentage for this option, 41.51%, is separate from the main game. Since the prize amounts don’t change, the payback percentage for this side bet also never changes.
Lucky for Life
Lucky for Life is like Mega Millions and Powervall – it’s a lotto game available in multiple jurisdictions. The twist with Lucky for Life is that the top 2 prizes are based on daily or yearly payments, depending on which prize you win.
The top prize is $1000 a day for the rest of your life, while the 2nd prize is $25,000 a year for the rest of your life.
The game is available in multiple states besides just Ohio. You can also play in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, and Delaware, among others. These kinds of multi-state games are able to offer bigger jackpots because they have so many players involved in the drawing each week – far more than they’d have available if they were just getting players from one state.
Lucky for Life is a draw game where you choose 5 numbers from between 1 and 48 and a 6th number from between 1 and 18. That 6th number is the “lucky ball.” Lucky for Life has drawings every Monday and Thursday night.
Here’s the paytable for the game:
- Match the 5 numbers and the lucky ball, and you win $1000 a day for the rest of your life. The odds of winning are 1 in 30,821,472
- Match the 5 numbers and miss the lucky ball, and you win $25,000 a year for the rest of your life. The odds of winning are 1 in 1,813,028
- Match 4 numbers and match the lucky ball, and you win $5000. The odds of winning are 1 in 143,356.
- Match 4 numbers and miss the lucky ball, and you win $200. The odds of winning are 1 in 8433.
- Match 3 numbers and match the lucky ball, and you win $150. The odds of winning are 1 in 3413.
- Match 3 numbers and miss the lucky ball, and you win $20. The odds of winning are 1 in 201.
- Match 2 numbers and the lucky ball, and you win $25. The odds of winning are 1 in 250.
- Match 2 numbers and miss the lucky ball, and you win $3. The odds of winning are 1 in 15.
- Match 1 number and match the lucky ball, and you win $6. The odds of winning are 1 in 50.
- Match 1 number and miss the lucky ball, and you win $4. The odds of winning are 1 in 32.
Of courses, calculating the payback percentage is impossible without knowing how much longer you have to live.
But you do have the option of taking a lump sum instead of the annuity. The lump sum for the top prize is divided by the number of winners. For our purposes, we’ll assume there’s just one winner.
The lump sum for the top prize is $5.75 million, and the lump sum for the 2nd prize is $390,000.
Plugging those numbers into our calculator gives us an expected return (payback percentage) for the game of 57.44%, making it one of the best lottery games available anywhere in the country.
Mega Millions and Powerball
You can find detailed overviews of Mega Millions and Powerball in detail on their own pages here. They’re the 2 largest lotto games in the United States, and they’re both available in Ohio as well as most other states.
Ohio joined Mega Millions in 2002. The game has a $20 million starting jackpot, although that used to be $40 million before the pandemic. After the pandemic, the jackpot should return to its $40 million level. As with other lotto games, the top prize increases after a drawing in which no one wins it.
To play Mega Millions, you choose 5 numbers between 1 and 70 and another number (between 1 and 25) for the Mega Ball. Tickets are $2, but you can kick in another dollar to activate the Megaplier option. This multiplies any non-jackpot win by a random factor of between 2 and 5.
Ohio joined Powerball in 2010. It has the same starting jackpot as Mega Millions and similar gameplay. Instead of choosing 5 numbers between 1 and 70, though, you choose 5 numbers between 1 and 69. The 6th number is the “Powerball” instead of the Mega Ball, and it’s a number between 1 and 26.
Mega Millions drawings are held on Tuesday and Friday nights, and Powerball drawings are on Wednesday and Friday nights.
The payback percentage for either of these games is less than 20% but rises with the size of the jackpot. You can find complete details, including the paytables, for both Mega Millions and Powerball on their specific pages on this site.
Pick 3 games are common in state lotteries, and they’re known for having drawings on a daily basis. In Ohio, Pick 3 drawings are held twice a day at 12:29pm and 7:29pm. The only exception is Saturday when the Pick 3 drawing happens during the Cash Explosion TV show.
The Ohio version of Pick 3 is like all other versions of Pick 3. You choose 3 numbers from between 0 and 9, and during the drawing, they draw 3 numbers between 3 and 9. If you match the 3 numbers, you win the prize.
Unlike other lotto draw games, though, you have different ways you can play a Pick 3 game. That’s because the balls don’t get removed after the drawing. You could have a result of any number between 000 and 999.
Pick 3 is also the cheapest lotto draw game you can play. Tickets are available for just 50 cents, but you can also buy tickets for $1.
The main 2 ways to play Pick 3 are by buying straight tickets or box tickets. A straight ticket is a wager that you’ll get the 3 numbers in the same order they’re drawn in. A box ticket, though, is one that pays off regardless of the order of numbers in your pick.
Obviously, the payoff for the straight ticket is bigger because you’re less likely to win. The odd and payback for Pick 3 games are easy to calculate, too.
You have 1000 possible outcomes, but with a straight ticket, only one of those outcomes can match your numbers. The payout is 500 for 1, which means you win $250 on a 50 cent ticket or $500 on a dollar ticket.
That’s a 50% return.
You have 2 different kinds of box tickets, though. The first kind is a box ticket where you choose 3 different digits. The other is a box ticket where you choose 2 digits that are the same and one that is different.
When you choose 3 different digits, you have 6 ways to win, so this is called a 6-way box.
When you choose 2 of one digit and 1 of the other, you only have 3 ways to win, so this is called a 3-way box.
The probability of winning the 6-way box is twice as likely as the probability of winning the 3-way box, and the payouts reflect this.
The 6-way box pays off at 83 for 1, and the 3-way box pays off at 167 for 1.
Compared to other lottery draw games, the payback percentage for Ohio’s Pick 3 game is excellent.
The only drawback is that it’s impossible to win a life-changing amount of money with such a low top prize.
The Pick 4 game is just like the Pick 3 game, but you can probably guess the difference. Instead of drawing 3 numbers between 0 and 9, in Pick 4, they draw 4 numbers between 0 and 9.
You also have straight tickets and box tickets available, and everything is multiplied by 10. The odds of winning are 10X less likely, and the payouts are 10X higher. Instead of a 500 for 1 payout, you have a 5000 for 1 payout on a straight bet.
In Ohio, Pick 4 drawings are held at the same time as the Pick 3 drawings, every day.
You shouldn’t be surprised by how the gameplay for Pick 5 works. It’s the same as Pick 3 or Pick 4, only you’re choosing 5 numbers between 0 and 9. The payouts are correspondingly larger, of course.
The Pick 5 drawings are held at the same time as the Pick 3 and Pick 4 drawings.
The odds of winning on a straight ticket are 1 in 100,000, and the payoff is 50,000 for 1. Since you can play for 50 cents per ticket, you can get a shot at winning $25,000 for less than a dollar.
The payback percentage for all 3 of these games – Pick 3, Pick 4, and Pick 5 – are the same, 50%
Rolling Cash 5
The traditional state lottery game in Ohio is the Rolling Cash 5. It’s a draw game where you choose 5 numbers between 1 and 39. It only costs $1 a to play, and the top prize starts at $100,000 and rises until someone wins.
The paytable for Rolling Cash 5 is simple enough:
- Match all 5 numbers and win the jackpot of $100,000+. Odds of winning are 1 in 575,757.
- Match 4 numbers and win $300. Odds of winning are 1 in 3387.
- Match 3 numbers and win $10. Odds of winning are 1 in 103.
- Match 2 numbers and win $1. Odds of winning are 1 in 10.
The payback percentage with the starting jackpot is 45.93%. Every $100,000 that the jackpot grows adds 18% to the game’s return, so if the jackpot reaches $400,000, the game is close to 100%.
One of the fun things about Ohio’s Rolling Cash 5 game is that drawings are held daily at 7:05pm.
Ohio’s EZPLAY Games
The Ohio Lottery also offers instant play games called EZPLAY Games. You buy a ticket which is printed instantly. You match your numbers and symbols on the ticket to see if you’re a winner. These games are basically like slot machine games with symbols printed on a piece of paper rather than on spinning reels on a computer monitor.
You buy these tickets through a lottery terminal anywhere lottery tickets are sold. If you win, you validate your ticket through the machine.
If you win $5000 or more, you redeem your winning ticket through the regional office by calling them at 1-800-686-4208.
At any given time, you might have a couple dozen different EZPLAY Games to choose from. As with scratch tickets or slot machines, these are usually themed games that involve traditional money-based themes. For example, Lucky Leprechaun, Slam Dunk Dough, and $3 Poker are some of the themes available at the time of this writing.
Those themes change based on the season, too. For example, at Christmastime, you’ll see games with names like Santa’s Snowball, Jingle Bell Bucks, or New Year’s Celebration.
Here’s an example of how one of these games works – Santa’s Snowball. When you buy a $1 ticket for Santa’s Snowball, you get a paper ticket with 6 snowballs printed on it. In each of those snowball are 2 numbers. If the totals for any of those snowballs match the “Santa’s Snowball Number” on your ticket, you win the prize amount listed next to the snowball.
Usually, you’ll see prize amounts of $2, $10, and $1000 on the tickets. Also, the Ohio Lottery makes the odds of winning and the payback percentage for each of these games available on their website. In the case of Santa’s Snowball, for example, the odds of winning any prize at all are 1 in 4.74, and the payback percentage is 71.30%.
If you’re going to play the EZPLAY Games, do some due diligence and choose the games with the highest payout percentage as listed on the website. These amounts range from 60% to 80%, and they don’t always correspond to the stakes for which you’re playing.
Also, just like with slot machines, some EZPLAY Games offer progressive jackpots – top prizes that increase every time someone plays and doesn’t win. These can range from 4 figures to 6 figures depending on the game.
The sizes of these jackpots are updated every 2 minutes on the Ohio Lottery website.
The EZPLAY Games generally offer better payback percentages than the draw games, but you might also lose more money playing them because of the ease with which you could play multiple games.
Ohio Scratch Tickets
Like all states hosting the lottery, Ohio offers a wide variety of scratch tickets for sale through authorized lottery retailers. Scratch tickets are cards with numbers and symbols hidden behind scratch off ink – the silver stuff – and you find out if you’re a winner or not by scratching off that ink.
Scratch games in Ohio are available in the following denominations:
Like the EZPLAY Games, Ohio’s scratch games come in a wide variety of themes and have varying payouts. Unlike the EZPLAY Games, the scratch games’ payback percentages aren’t listed on the official lottery site for the state, although you could calculate it using the information on the site. They provide the prize amounts along with the number of unsold tickets for that amount.
Keno is a draw game where you draw between 1 and 10 numbers from a pool of numbers from 1 to 80. You can buy a keno ticket for any of the following denominations:
You can double the size of your wager by adding the “Booster” option and increase the size of your potential winnings.
As with keno in a casino, the Ohio keno has drawings every few minutes, 7 days a week.
Keno has separate pay tables based on how many numbers (“spots”) you decide to choose. The more numbers you choose, the bigger the potential payout. The biggest possible payout is on a 10-spot ticket. You can win $100,000 on this one if you get all 10 numbers right, and you can win $2 by getting as few as 2 numbers right.
Also, that payout is based on a $1 wager. If you wager more than a dollar, you can multiply the prize amounts by the amount you wagered to get the actual prize.
So, a $20 ticket where you chose 10 numbers would have a top prize of $2 million.
The “Booster” option provides you with a randomly-chosen multiplier that applies to your prize amount. That multiplier can be any of the following:
Of course, the odds of getting the biggest multiplier are the longest odds – 1 in 80. Most of the time your Booster multiplier will be 1X or 2X.
Also, Ohio’s keno game has a maximum prize of $20 million even with the Booster option in place.
You can find a list of the hot and cold numbers over the past 5, 10, 25, 50, or 100 drawings on the official site. Superstitious players use these to try to inform their number choices.
Some keno players prefer to play cold numbers because they’re “due.”
Others prefer to play hot numbers because they want to take advantage of the ongoing “streak.”
The truth is that keno number drawings are “independent events.” That’s a mathematical phrase used to describe something in probability where previous events have no effect on the probability of subsequent events.
In other words, the odds of an 11 coming up on the next drawing don’t change if it’s only come up 20% of the time over the last 5 drawings, and the odds of 30 coming up on the next drawing don’t change if it’s come up on 80% of the last 5 drawings.
The odds are the same every time.
Besides traditional keno, the Ohio Lottery offers “Touch & Win” games. These games are a hybrid of EZPLAY games with keno that are played at a computer terminal. As far as gameplay, it’s identical to other kinds of keno games – you choose between 2 and 10 numbers from an array of 80 numbers.
The “drawing” is handled electronically by a random number generator at the Touch & Win terminal.
One of the advantages to the Touch & Win keno games is that they’re available for lower stakes. You can play for 25 cents per game.
Also, these Touch & Win games come in a variety of themes just like other EZPLAY games and like scratch tickets. The Ohio Lottery usually has 30 or 40 varieties of games to choose from.
The Lucky One
The Lucky One almost seems like a hybrid of roulette and keno that you play electronically. You have the following betting options when playing The Lucky One:
- Lucky Number
The Lucky One is an unusual draw game because the Ohio Lottery only draws a single number from between 1 and 36.
You win the Lucky Number wager if you choose the number that gets drawn.
You can also bet on whether the number is going to be odd or even.
And, you can bet on whether the number is going to be low (1 through 18) or higher (19 through 36).
You can play Lucky Number for a wide range of wagers:
As with Ohio’s keno games, you have drawings every few minutes every day.
The Lucky One is an easy game to calculate the payback percentage for.
The prize for getting the number right is 24 for 1, but the odds of winning are obviously 1 in 36. That makes the payback percentage for that bet 66.67%.
The prize for the other 2 bets are 1.5 for 1, but the odds of winning are 1 to 1. The payback percentage is 75%.
Obviously, the best strategy for playing The Lucky One is to stick with the odd/even or high/low bets.
It seems only fair to compare the payback percentage of this game to the payback percentage of roulette in a casino. The games are similar, but the payback percentages are significantly different.
The payback percentage for any of those bets at a roulette table is 94.74%.
How to Buy Tickets and Claim Prizes in the Ohio Lottery
Lottery tickets are practically ubiquitous throughout the state of Ohio. Over 9800 locations are authorized lottery dealers. These consist of the usual retail establishments, including gas stations, grocery stores, and pharmacies.
The official site for the Ohio Lottery has a searchable database of retailers that you can narrow down by type. You can filter your search by retailers that offer Touch & Win, MP Kiosks, and Winstation Kiosks. You can also just input a zip code to get a list of the retailers nearest you.
Claim locations vary based on the prize amount. For prizes under $600, you can just claim your prize at any authorized lottery retailer. You can also claim your winnings using the Ohio Lottery app on your phone.
The state has 7 racinos where you can cash in winning tickets of between $600 and $5000.
You can also claim winnings of $5000 or more by filling out a claim form on the official website and mailing it to the Ohio Lottery Commission.
You can also call your regional lottery office for help claiming your prizes.
The History of the Ohio Lottery
The campaign to launch the Ohio Lottery began in 1971 and finally gained legislative approval in 1973. By August 1974, the Ohio Lottery sold its first Buckeye 300 ticket. In 1983, the state legislated that lottery funds must be used for education.
Even though the Ohio Lottery launched in 1974, the state didn’t offer lotto games until April 1983. In 1987, the Ohio Lottery premiered a television show – Cash Explosion.
Buckeye 5, another miniature lotto game, launched in 1992. Pick 3 launched in 1999.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the Ohio Lottery joined Mega Millions. Powerball came even later, in 2010.
In 2008, EZPLAY Games rolled out across the state with a $1 Tic Tac Tow themed game and a $2 Bingo themed game. Keno launched later that same year. In 2013, progressive jackpots attached to the EZPLAY Games were introduced.
Shortly after that, Ohio launched a frequent players club called MyLotto Rewards. Like a players club at a casino, MyLotto Rewards offers perks based on how much money you put into action over time.
In 2015, 5 years after joining Powerball, the Ohio Lottery joined another multi-state game – Lucky for Life.
The Lucky One launched in 2018. As of that year, almost 400 people were employed by the Ohio Lottery.
How to Contact the Ohio Lottery
The easiest way to contact the Ohio Lottery is to fill out the contact form on the official site. You can also call them toll free at 800-686-4208 during normal business hours.
If you just want the winning numbers, call 800-589-6446.
Questions about your rewards account should be directed to 855-319-7189.
Here is mailing address:
Ohio Lottery Commission
The Lausche Building – Room 452
615 West Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113