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The Two State Challenge: Can You Win with Scratch Off Lottery Tickets? [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

Spend a couple of bucks, scratch off the ticket, and win big! That’s the promise of instant lottery ticket games. They advertise big prizes for a few dollars investment. But, can you actually win anything on these? I bought a bunch from two different states to find out.

Last year, my good friend Simon and I dropped $20 in a Pennsylvania Lottery ticket machine and ended up scratching off tickets for the better part of an hour. While the biggest amount we hit was only $20, we kept getting free tickets over and over that we kept cashing in. Pennsylvania gave us a lot of play, and our money back, for that $20 investment. But, are other states just as loose with their tickets?

The New York Lottery ticket vending machine located at the Herald Square subway station, New York City

The New York Lottery recently installed a flashy, new lottery ticket vending machine at the Herald Square subway station. In addition to dispensing scratch off tickets, players can also purchase regular number games, such as Powerball tickets, from this machine. So yes, you can now legally gamble while riding the subway!

I pass this machine every day on my commute to work so I decided that I would give the New York Lottery a try. I dropped $30 into the machine and chose a variety of tickets ranging from $1 to $10, ending up with 11 tickets in all. Several New York commuters cued up behind me to use the machine.

Once I arrived home in New Jersey, I stopped in at a local convenience store, purchasing an array of tickets to see what kind of luck the Garden State lottery would give me. I asked for $25 in a variety of tickets. There are no $1 tickets in New Jersey so I had to plop down an additional $1. With that, the clerk handed me 13 tickets, all in $2 denominations.

My total investment between New York and New Jersey was $56. So, let’s see who would pay off better – The Empire State or The Garden State.

The scratch off tickets from the New York Lottery I received were:

2x $2 $1,000 a Week for Life

1x $5 20x the Cash

2x $1 Loose Change

1x $1 3x the Luck

2x $2 Cheers

1x $10 Set for Life

1x $3 7x the Win

The scratch off tickets from the New Jersey Lottery I received were:

2x $2 Tic Tac Snow

2x $2 Birthday Wishes

3x $2 Strawberry 7’s

2x $2 Plants vs. Zombies

2x $2 Big Money Spectacular

2x $2 $50 Shades of Green

I began with the lower amount tickets, as they are easiest to scratch off and all similar games. Almost all of these tickets require matching three the same amounts to win. Very little effort involved.

Looking at the pile of tickets, I wondered how long it would take. I hit GO on a stop watch app on my phone and started scratching.

The winning $4 Cheers ticket from the New York Lottery

The New York Lottery tickets were first.

Over and over again, losers, not even a free ticket. Finally, on one Cheers ticket – I won $4.

So, for my $30 investment in New York – I won $4.

It was time to turn to the New Jersey Lottery. Hopefully, the Garden State would bring me better luck, because at this point I was already bored from scratching all of the duds and had a pile of scratcher shards on the table.

The three matching $25 symbols on a New Jersey Lottery Birthday Wishes instant ticket.

After a couple of minutes, I hit my first winner. $2 on a Strawberry 7’s ticket! After a few more minutes I hit a big win – three-$25 symbols appeared on a Birthday Wishes ticket! Finally, on my very last ticket, I scratched off three snow shovel symbols in the $10 row on the Tic Tac Snow ticket! Plus, that game contains a bonus scratch off square awarding me another $5! I was way up in New Jersey! I turned my $26 investment into $42! Winning!

In a previous blogumn, I discussed how these tickets came to be so popular, starting in the 1980’s. There are dozens of games out there. The basic games require matching three symbols like I had, but other games require totaling up a higher number than the house, scoring more runs in a baseball game, or uncovering a winning poker hand to win. Some are even based on game shows and can offer trips, cars, and cash for life. At the convenience store in Jersey, I saw scratchers all the way up to $20.

So, the winner of this challenge – New Jersey!

The $5 bonus square winner on the Tic Tac Snow New Jersey Lottery ticket.

I made $16 in the Garden State, but lost $26 in New York for a grand total of a $10 loss. Not too bad for the chance to win thousands of dollars.

The total time to scratch off 24 tickets – 28 minutes & 43.6 seconds.

I could only imagine how long that would have taken if I had chosen the more complex games.

THE 411

Name: instant, scratch off lottery tickets
What: lottery games that require scratching off a series of like numbers, or symbols, to reveal a prize
Where purchased: New York and New Jersey
Denominations: $1 and up in New York, $2 and up in New Jersey

JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS:

A Strawberry 7's winning ticket from The New Jersey Lottery. Notice you can win up to $77,777!

In this experiment, it was easier to win in New Jersey and those tickets yielded larger prizes. This is a purely unscientific experiment and it’s all in the way the tickets came up. The draw is random and the games are monitored by most states to be fair.  For my money, the odds of winning were better in New Jersey. I plan on repeating this experiment in the future to see if this happens, again.

One word of caution: some games offer only one large grand prize. After it’s claimed, the remaining game tickets will still be on sale and it is up to the gambler to know that the grand prize for that game is no longer available. For example, if a game is offering a Harley as a grand prize and it is won, the unsold tickets with other prizes usually remain on the market until they are all sold. It is up to you to check with the state on these tickets that offer only one grand prize. That information can be found on the state lottery website.

Instant scratch off lottery games are a great deal of fun and very easy to play. Just make sure you’re not gambling away your utility bills to buy them. They are by no means a guaranteed source of income and playing this session cost me 10 bucks, but that wasn’t too bad for about a half an hour’s entertainment.

As the New York Lottery says “Hey, you never know!”  I’m not going to lie – I would have liked to hit the big prize, but who wouldn’t?

These instant games are available in most states, so give them a try!

I would love to hear about any big winners you’ve had scratching off instant lottery tickets!

If you enjoyed this blogumn, you may also enjoy another previous one featuring live lottery drawing disasters. See what can happen when the machines malfunction on live television!