Jennifer McKee can't explain what's happening. The communications manager for the Montana Lottery is trying to understand the rush on Montana Millionaire Lottery tickets.
As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, more than 108,000 of the 250,000 Montana Millionaire tickets have been sold - that's just three days after ticket sales began on November 1st.
"We really did have to reset the X-Y access on our sales chart to make it fit on one page. What happened from last year to this year is just so far above what we were expecting,” McKee said.
McKee is talking about a 613% increase in day-one ticket sales, leaving the Montana Lottery team blown away: “We don’t know how to approach this either. Not even our mathematicians know exactly what to do right now."
The biggest change from years past: this year, the annual event will feature two million-dollar grand prizes. There will also be two "early bird" drawings - the first will be for $25,000 on November 26, and the second will be for $15,000 on December 17.
Tickets are $20 each; there will be 250,000 tickets sold this year.
Tickets can be bought at most convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores. Last year, there were 180,000 tickets available, and they sold out on November 23.
For this year's raffle, the state eliminated some mid-level cash prizes and ramped up its instant wins, meaning more opportunities to win $100 or $500 on the spot.
“You can just cash it right where you are and walk out with the money," said McKee.
McKee said she and her team do not know why sales are so much hotter than in years past, but, "if you thought you could wait a little longer, if you were going to make a planned purchase on this ticket, you might not really be able to. It is going faster than we ever in our wildest imaginations thought it would."
The Montana Lottery said the drawing date for the big prizes hasn't been determined yet - that depends on how soon all of the tickets are sold. If the game sells out, they will conduct the drawing before December 25. If the tickets are not all sold, the drawing will be held on January 1, 2022.
McKee said she and her team are sure of one thing: "There's not going to be very many Thanksgiving leftovers in the Montana Millionaire game. It's probably going to go before Thanksgiving."
Previous winners of the Montana Millionaire grand prize are:
- 2020: Megan Thorstenson, Butte
- 2019: Casey Petero, Columbia Falls
- 2018: Richard Mai, Billings
- 2017: Amy Lambert, Butte
- 2016: Daniel Thompson, Great Falls
- 2015: Jack Barisich, Winnett
- 2014: Jeffrey Fallang, East Helena
- 2013: Russell Miller, Columbia Falls
- 2012: Sam Polesky, Laurel
- 2011: Vern & Mara Wallace, Billings
- 2010: William Morse, Billings
- 2009: Dana Delguerra, Great Falls
- 2008: Mike & Carole McGivern, Butte
- 2007: Gary & BJ Klipstein, Billings
Click here to visit the Montana Millionaire website.
- with additional information from David Sherman