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Powerball prices double; jackpot and odds of winning it increase

When the price of Powerball lottery tickets increases from $1 to $2 on Jan. 15, Chris Taranto says, he will still buy them.

So will a lot of other lottery players, he told phillyburbs.com. And their chances of winning will improve.

"People like to dream in this country," the Delran, N.J., resident said as he purchased tickets for the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries at the Hartford Deli on Tuesday. "The only true dream left is the lottery."

With the price increase, the Powerball jackpot will grow from a minimum of $20 million to $40 million, and that could grow to the hundreds of millions if it takes several weeks to get a winner.

The current game is designed for an average jackpot of $141 million, says the West Des Moines-based Multistate Lottery Association, which runs Powerball. The game jackpot average will grow to $255 million, the association claims. 

"When the jackpots begin climbing into the triple-digit millions, the excitement is going to be palpable," said Carole Hedinger, executive director of the New Jersey Lottery.

The "enriched Powerball game" will still have participants choosing their first five numbers from a pool of 59, but the numbers available for the Powerball itself will drop to 35 from 39. That will raise the odds of winning to 1 in 175 million from 1 in 192 million.

The second-prize winner will receive $1 million in cash, up from $200,000 now offered.

Half of ticket sales are returned to the states where Powerball is played to help fund government programs. Powerball ticket sales in fiscal year 2011, the last complete year of record, were $3.1 billion.  

Lottery officials believe increasing the price of the game will make it more attractive to players, said Terry Rich, association spokesman.

"People like variety," Rich said. "We're repackaging and freshening up the product and enriching the product."

The move will differentiate the game from Mega Millions, the other big money, multi-state lottery game that is sold in 42 states for $1 a ticket. Each game has drawings twice a week but on different nights.

The larger jackpots should attract more players, even at the higher price, said Clyde Barrow, a gambling expert at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

"As prizes escalate more people tend to enter the game," he said. "The big draw will be the size of the jackpot. The idea is that at $12 million people don't get too excited but when it crosses $140 million, more people will play and by increasing the price level of tickets you will reach that prize level much faster."

Don Bigley, president of the Ott's Group, which includes Ott's Tavern in Delran, didn't think the price increase for Powerball tickets would deter sales.

"The people who bet, bet," Bigley said. "The bigger the (jackpot) is, the more motivated people get."

Not so fast, said one Iowa gambler.

"With the price of everything else going up, there's not much you can get for a dollar anymore," 28-year-old Ryan Raker of Des Moines told The Associated Press. Raker said he buys a ticket once a month. He said he'll probably play less frequently now.

This article includes reporting from msnbc.com staff and The Associated Press.