It's fair to say it's been a rough couple of years for many New Jerseyans, still gritting through a global pandemic on top of facing everyday challenges.

Someone could be starting 2022 $2 million richer, however, thanks to the New Jersey Lottery New Year's Day Raffle, the first raffle-type contest the Lottery Commission is offering since 2008.

"We thought it would be something fun and different for our players that would get them excited, at really the best odds possible to win $2 million from the New Jersey Lottery," James Carey, Lottery executive director, said in an exclusive interview with New Jersey 101.5. "So we thought this was the year to do it."

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Starting Monday, an allocation of 500,000 tickets will go on sale at a price of $20 each. They will continue to be sold until Dec. 31, or until there are no more remaining.

The fewer tickets that sell, the better the odds will be for players. But Carey doesn't expect that to be the case, although he said there are about 39,000 reasons -- the number of total prizes — for people to be encouraged.

"The odds, if every ticket is sold, are 1 in 500,000," he said. "We do expect that they'll sell out, and we hope that they sell out. If they don't sell out, if we sell 400,000 tickets, the top prize is still $2 million."

Beginning Monday, Nov. 29, weekly "early bird" drawings will award a top prize of $25,000.

Winning one of those still wouldn't take a player out of the running for the $2 million jackpot, or any other dollar amounts, according to Carey.

"If you win a $25,000 prize — those are in the interim drawings — you're still eligible to win all the other prizes. And then the second-tier and third-tier prizes of $5,000 and $500 will be drawn on New Year's Day, with the grand prize."

Carey said 100 second-tier prizes will be given out, and 900 third-tier. If all 500,000 tickets are sold, the Lottery expects to have about 38,000 "instant winners" of $50 apiece.

The total prize value being offered, if all tickets are sold and all prizes awarded, is $4.975 million. Players can remain anonymous regardless of the size of any potential winnings, Carey said.

And although the New Year's Day Raffle is running through the holiday season, Carey said $1, $2, $5, and $10 scratch-offs remain popular stocking stuffers.

He only warns New Jersey residents not to give those tickets to minors.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER or go to 800gambler.org.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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