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New $5 national lottery takes the prize for being complicated

On Oct. 19, Monopoly Millionaires' Club will start confusing people in many states.

Pennsylvania Lottery promotional art for Monopoly Millionaires' Club, a new national weekly drawing.
Pennsylvania Lottery promotional art for Monopoly Millionaires' Club, a new national weekly drawing.Read more

Lotteries may be called "the idiot tax," but it's going to take some brainpower to understand the new national lottery game, Monopoly Millionaire's Club, which debuts Sunday, Oct. 19, in more than 20 states.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania is holding sessions around the state, including at the Packer Avenue Holiday Inn, to explain the game to retailers.

If you're surprised that there's been little publicity, you'll soon change your tune, as the word gets splashed through retail locations, radio and TV ads, and social media, according to lottery officials.

"The public should certainly know that the game is going to launch," said Judith Drucker, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Lottery. The first weekly drawing will be on Friday, Oct. 24.

On Tuesday, a check of five Center City retailers found only one with a promotional flyer to share.

Judging from its contents, good luck finding another drawing that's as complicated.

Don't expect to master this game by watching a 30-second TV spot.

Monopoly Millionaires' Club is like a cross between Powerball, the Pennsylvania Lottery's Millionaire Raffle, and McDonald's Monopoly game, which makes people collect various game pieces.

Plus, there's a TV show.

In complexity, the $5 game could be compared to a scratch-off game with four ways to win, except there's nothing "instant" about Monopoly Millionaires' Club.

The good news is that this game could mint many more millionaires in a single drawing than Powerball ever has. Instead of plowing sales revenue into ever growing jackpots, excess will fund more $1 million prizes.

The game might also set records for people who fail to realize they won as well, as people who mistakenly think they did.

A word of advice, if you decide to play: Save those tickets until you're 100 percent sure you understand the game.

Playing is actually simple enough to start. (See sample New Jersey ticket.) You pick or quick-pick five numbers, and a computer generates a sixth, giving you something like 13-21-24-32-41 and 18. As in other drawings, how many you match determines how much of a prize you win, up to the grand prize of $15 million to $25 million.

So far, so simple. Kind of like Powerball or Pick 6.

The tricky part is that the printout automatically generates more ways to win.

A second set of numbers -- something like "NJ 1031-0010-0147" -- is the set you need to match to win $1 million (plus a custom Monopoly-style top hat).

Definitely a welcome bonus. No reason to grouse so far.

But there's a catch. The number only kicks in IF someone hits the grand prize. If no one wins the $15 million to $25 million, nobody wins $1 million. No Millionaires' Club Numbers will be drawn to be matched, and those tickets can no longer win a million-dollar prize.

If that's all there was to it, the game could hardly be called a major headache.

You might even think: Hey, for $5, that's only two numbers to check vs. five sets of numbers in Mega Millions.

Then along comes "Your Entry Webcode."

Looks something like this: 019ZW G72SG F1L01 M03C5 2DX4C.

If you enter this code online (by setting up an account, then typing in all 25 characters or scanning your ticket with a soon-to-be-available app), you've taken a step toward being eligible to win a four-night trip to Vegas.

No, you didn't win the trip yet. No, you're not yet eligible to win. There's one more step.

Let's go back to that sixth number in the first set of numbers, the set that can win the main drawing.

It's not like the Powerball. It's a "PROPERTY" number, corresponding to a property in a Monopoly game. On a New Jersey lottery sample ticket, 18 stands for the B.&O. Railroad.

Collect all the properties in a set -- like all the Monopoly railroads, or Boardwalk and Park Place -- and register all the necessary tickets online, and then you're eligible to be selected to win a trip to Vegas.

If you win the trip, then you're also eligible to be picked for the TV show, which will have a grand prize of $1 million. It's scheduled to start next year, with Mike & Molly's Bill Gardell as host.

Here's part of a Pennsylvania Lottery flyer that shows the ticket parts.

It seems likely that many players will keep things simple by skipping the Vegas parts of the game.

Of course, that would improve the odds for those who go to the trouble.

Hmm. Imagine collectors pursuing ways to obtain extra tickets, by asking friends, using social media, or even developing ticket-trading apps. A sort of secondary market could develop.

A poll on a previous article found that more than 40 percent of respondents said, yes, they'd play such a game, with another 27 percent saying they'd consider it when the pool of potential millionaires got large.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or Follow @petemucha on Twitter.