By Randy Ray
The Wyoming Lottery launched in 2014 as the direct result of legislation crafted by the state’s then-governor in an effort to increase state revenue. As is often the case with recent lottery programs (see Mississippi and Arkansas for examples) pressure from voters and a need for a new source of revenue combined with the success of neighboring state lottery programs to produce the Wyoming Lottery.
Wyoming modeled its program after the Georgia Lottery and the North Dakota Lottery, hoping to emulate Georgia’s corporate structure and North Dakota’s heavy dependence on in-state and multi-state draw games.
As the 44th US state to create a lottery program, Wyoming is a little late to the game. By the time Wyoming Lottery launched with just one draw game, most US states were entering their third or fourth decade of lottery operations.
Here’s the current list of games available from the Wyoming Lottery:
- Cowboy Draw
- Ragtime Raffle
- Mega Millions
- Lucky for Life
The Wyoming Lottery may be more notable for what games you won’t find available. The law used to create the state’s lottery a decade ago includes language that specifically prohibits the sale of scratch cards and other instant win games. The law also forbids the state from hosting video lottery games or other gaming terminals. This makes Wyoming one of just two states (along with North Dakota) that sell traditional draw lottery games but don’t sell scratch or instant win tickets.
Not selling instant win games is the main reason Wyoming and North Dakota report the smallest sales figures of any US lottery program. The $31 million in sales reported by the Wyoming Lottery is about the same as the New York Lottery reports in a single day. Wyoming’s annual lottery sales are about 1/6th what the New York Lottery spends on administrative costs.
Vermont has about the same population as Wyoming. Vermont’s instant games account for about 80% of their annual sales, which average around $160 million a year. It seems like Wyoming Lottery is leaving $130 million or so on the table every year by not offering scratch card and other instant win games, to say nothing of the increased cash flow that would come from allowing video lottery terminal games.
Wyoming is in a unique geographic position to sell tons of instant win games. Most people living in Utah are within a 90-minute drive to Wyoming. Since Utah has no lottery, Wyoming could be catering to Utahans looking for legal scratch cards and other lottery games. As it stands, If you live in Utah and want to buy lottery tickets, you’re stuck driving 4 hours east to Colorado or 2.5 hours north to Idaho.
The Wyoming Lottery gets a few things very right. In 2019, the corporation that runs the lottery won a major award for financial excellence – the PGRI Sharp Award. Lottery administration is a little dry, but it’s worth pointing out that Wyoming Lottery has one of the best and most informative set of corporate and financial reports I’ve seen. It’s frequently-updated with detailed reports and figures laying out every aspect of the lottery’s finances.
Probability, Return to Player, and the Wyoming Lottery
In this post, you’ll read quite a bit about probability. Probability math is important to lottery play when you want to understand your likelihood of winning or to compare the relative value of different tickets. The concepts used in this post and in most discussions of the lottery are return to player and overall odds of winning.
A game’s return to player is expressed as a percentage. This percentage is the amount of your bet that you’re likely to win back. For example, a lottery game with a return to player figure of 30% is likely to return back $0.30 in prizes for every $1 you bet on it. A game’s overall odds of winning represents a different likelihood. If a lottery game is listed as having 1 in 9 odds of winning, that means one in every nine tickets you buy is likely to produce a win.
Anytime probability math comes up, it helps to remember that these figures are theoretical. They represent a mathematical possibility, not a certainty. Like any game of chance, a lottery game involves a high amount of variance. That means your real-world results can swing wildly in either direction. If a lottery ticket gives you overall odds of 1 in 5, you may win on the first 5 tickets you buy, or you may lose on those first five tickets. The 1 in 5 figure is a representation of something that might happen, not something that is guaranteed to happen.
By comparing these figures across different games, and considering ticket costs in light of those odds, lottery players create their own strategy. Obviously, games with lower overall odds of winning are likely to produce more winners. A ticket with overall odds of 1 in 3 is mathematically likely to return more winners than a ticket with overall odds of 1 in 9.
How to Play the Wyoming Lottery (Drawing Schedules & Buying Tickets)
Wyoming Lottery runs two in-state draw games as well as three multistate games. The corporation that runs the Wyoming Lottery also runs a semiannual raffle called Ragtime Raffle.
Here’s a short guide to each game currently available from the Wyoming Lottery:
Cowboy Draw is Wyoming Lottery’s flagship draw game, running since the program launched nearly a decade ago. Players pick five numbers between 1 and 45. Each $5 ticket gives you two plays. You can choose to play for just one draw or up to 20 consecutive drawings.
Cowboy Draw is drawn twice a week, every Monday and Thursday at 2 PM Mountain time. Ticket sales close at 1:45 PM Mountain time on the day of each drawing and begin again at 2:05 PM for the next drawing.
Here’s the Cowboy Draw pay table:
- Match all five balls to win the jackpot (min. $250,000) – odds of 1 in 610,879
- Match four balls to win $1,000 – odds of 1 in 3,054
- Match three balls to win $20 – odds of 1 in 78.57
- Match two balls to win $5 – odds of 1 in 6.44
A player’s overall chance of winning on a Cowboy Draw ticket – 1 in 6. Theoretically, that means about 16.5% of all Cowboy Draw tickets are winners.
2by2 is a daily draw game in which players pick four numbers. Specifically, players pick two red and two white numbers, each numbered between 1 and 26. 2by2 tickets cost $1.
2by2 is drawn daily making it the state’s only daily draw lottery game. Drawings take place every night at 8:30 PM Mountain time. Ticket sales close entirely at 7:30 PM every night and begin again at 8:35 PM.
Here’s the 2by2 pay table:
- Match all four balls to win $22,000 – odds of 1 in 105,625
- Match two red and one white balls to win $100 – odds of 1 in 2,200.5
- Match one red and two white balls to win $100 – odds of 1 in 2,200.5
- Match two red or two white balls to win $3 – odds of 1 in 382.7
- Match one red and one white ball to win $3 – odds of 1 in 382.7
- Match one red ball to win a free ticket – odds of 1 in 8
- Match one white ball to win a free ticket – odds of 1 in 8
A player’s overall odds of winning any prize on a 2by2 ticket – 1 in 3.59. Theoretically, that means about 28% of 2by2 tickets result in some kind of prize. Take note that the lowest-tier prize, a free ticket, is about 50 times more likely than even a $3 win.
Every Tuesday, 2by2 has an automatic win multiplier. Any prize you win on 2by2 Tuesdays is automatically doubled. You have to buy a Multidraw ticket to activate the win multiplier, meaning you have to buy a ticket for at least 7 consecutive draws in a row.
Once a year, Wyoming Lottery teams up with the operators of Cheyenne Frontier Days to run what they call the Ragtime Raffle. Tickets cost $20, and the state only prints a certain number of them. The most recent raffle included 80,000 tickets and a top prize of $750,000. Three other Early Bird prizes of $75,000 were drawn in the days leading up to the grand prize, and the holders of five tickets won $5,000 each.
Wyoming doesn’t post any game odds or any other information on the Ragtime Raffle.
Powerball & Mega Millions
The Wyoming Lottery launched as participants in three multi-state games, borrowing the small market lottery model of North Dakota. To that end, Wyoming lottery fans can play Powerball and Mega Millions, the two most popular draw games in the country, and the two games that consistently produce record-setting jackpots and sales in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Powerball and Mega Millions are similar enough to be covered in a single section. Both games cost $2 to play, and both offer a multiplier option for an additional dollar. Both games use a pool of six drawn numbers to determine payouts. Both games include a special ball with its own number range. You can usually buy both games in any state with an active lottery program.
Here’s where a small difference pops up – the range of numbered balls bettors choose from. Mega Millions players pick between the numbers 1 and 70, while Powerball players pick between the numbers 1 and 69. That means Powerball uses one fewer potential winning number, which generally means it’s the better-odds game between the two. However, the difference between the two games’ odds is so slight, and the Powerball pay table adjusted in just such a way, that the odds are pretty much even between them.
Here’s the paytable for Mega Millions:
Mega Millions Paytable
- 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
A player’s overall odds of winning any prize on a Mega Millions ticket – 1 in 24. That means, theoretically, a Mega Millions ticket should win about 4% of the time. Of course, that’s a theoretical figure, and a player’s real-world results will likely vary a bit in either direction.
Here’s the paytable for Powerball:
- 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
A Powerball player’s overall odds of winning any prize on a Powerball ticket – 1 in 24.87. That’s almost identical to Mega Millions’ overall odds. Theoretically, this number means that just about 4% of all Powerball tickets are winners.
Notice how Powerball’s pay table is slightly worse than Mega Millions? That’s to make up for the one number difference in the draw pool. It also means that, unless the top prizes are significantly far apart, the odds are pretty much the same.
Understand that, for most casual lottery players, a tiny difference in odds (it’s often just 0.1 or 0.2%) isn’t meaningful. You should play whichever of the two games you like – or both.
Lucky for Life
Wyoming Lottery participates in Lucky for Life. This is a unique game, in that offers two annuitized top prizes that are worth a certain amount of money every day in a “for life” format. Lucky for Life also has traditional fixed lottery jackpots.
Lucky for Life tickets cost $2 each. Players are hoping to match their 5 numbers to the 5 numbers drawn twice a week at 9:38 PM. Four of the balls are numbered between 1 and 48 – the fifth number is the Lucky Ball, numbered between 1 and 18.
Lucky for Life payouts are determined by the number of matches. Here’s the paytable:
- Match all six balls to win $1,000 a day for life – odds of 1 in 30.8 million
- Match 5 balls to win $25,000 a year for life – odds of 1 in 1.8 million
- Match 4 balls with the Lucky Ball to win $5,000 – odds of 1 in 143,355
- Match 4 balls to win $200 – odds of 1 in 8,432
- Match 3 balls with the Lucky Ball to win $150 – odds of 1 in 3,413
- Match 3 balls to win $20 – odds of 1 in 200
- Match 2 balls with the Lucky Ball to win $25 – odds of 1 in 249
- Match 2 balls to win $3 – odds of 1 in 14
- Match 1 ball with the Lucky Ball to win $6 – odds of 1 in 49
- Match only the Lucky Ball to win $4 – odds of 1 in 32
A Lucky for Life player’s overall odds of winning any prize on a Lucky for Life ticket – 1 in 8. Theoretically, that means about 12.5% of all Lucky for Life tickets are winners. Understand that the vast majority of those wins are worth $4 or $6.
Where to Buy Wyoming Lottery Tickets
You can buy Wyoming lottery products at more than 400 retailers located all over the state.
Use Wyoming Lottery’s Find a Retailer tool to search by zip code or address.
How to Claim Wyoming Lottery Prizes
Prizes of $599 or less can be claimed at any Wyoming Lottery retailer. Retailers have the right to refuse to pay prizes if they don’t have a large enough supply of cash.
All claims worth $600 or more can be claimed through the mail. Winners must complete a Winner Claim Form and send in their winning ticket along with a copy of a state-issued photo ID and social security card.
You can claim prizes in person, but you need to set an appointment first. Contact information is in the next section.
Contact the Wyoming Lottery
The easiest way to contact the Wyoming Lottery is to use the contact form on their website.
The Wyoming Lottery’s public offices are open Monday-Thursday from 9 AM to 4 PM, with a one hour break for lunch at 12:30 PM. On Fridays, the offices are only open from 9 AM to 1 PM, with no break for lunch. To set an appointment with the Wyoming Lottery office, call 307.432.9300.
Send all mail to:
Wyoming Lottery Corporation
1620 Central Ave, Suite 100
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Wyoming Lottery’s next two big moves are to redesign their website and to launch a daily keno-style game. It’s exciting to see a normally conservative game library expanded to include a new style of lottery game that’s popular with the more progressive programs in the country.
Fans of instant win games and other forms of lottery besides the traditional draw game in at least two different states are looking forward to the day when Wyoming begins selling scratch cards and pull-tab games. It’ll require a literal change to Wyoming law, but we’ve seen similar moves in other states, and the general trend in the US lottery industry is away from conservatism towards a more progressive and modern approach.
Big Wyoming should have an equally big lottery program. While the state deserves recognition for running a tight financial ship and prioritizing transparency, it feels like they could be a leader in the Mountain West if they’d embrace a few more modern game styles.