The tickets may be a bit pricier than what Californians are used to, but then again, the jackpot is higher, too. With $2 and the ding of a cash register, people started buying Powerball lottery tickets in California on Monday, marking the first official day of the states participation in the nationwide game.
The drawings will be held every Wednesday and Saturday in Orlando, Fla., at 7:59 p.m. PST, with a minimum jackpot of $40 million. Wednesday's jackpot is estimated at $60 million.
In November, the multistate jackpot swelled to an estimated $550 million, with Californians forced to sit on the sidelines. Within days, the California Lottery Commission unanimously approved joining the game. Only seven states Utah, Nevada, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi and Wyoming don't participate in Powerball.
Enthusiasm to join Powerball has picked up steam over the past six months. A public art display, aptly named the RedBall Project, has partnered with the California Lottery to generate buzz for the game. The ball is expected to end its international tour in Sacramento on Wednesday.
On The Bee's Facebook page Monday, reaction to Powerball's California arrival was mixed. Dan Rogers of Modesto said, "Lotteries are a tax on the stupid." Janet Robinson of Ripon wished players luck "I want everyone to win a gazillion dollars" but asked, "I thought the Lotto was all about helping the schools. For all the money that is supposedly earned from the Lotto, why are we closing schools, laying off teachers, etc.?"
Time will tell if the game will add to money that goes to California schools, or simply draw away plays from two other games SuperLotto Plus and Mega Millions. Those two games will continue.
Lottery Director Robert T. O'Neill said he's sure the new game will be a boon to providing funding for schools. "I expect Powerball to add anywhere between 50 to 100 million additional dollars to supplement public education funding, which is our one and only mission," he said in a news release at the time of the game's adoption by the commission.
Powerball jackpots start at $40 million. If nobody wins, the jackpot increases a minimum of $10 million.
Players pick five unique numbers from a field of one through 59, and a Powerball number from one through 35. The Powerball number can be the same as any of the first five numbers. Players can make their own number choices or use a quick pick option. Powerball sales are closed at 7 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday.
The odds of winning are one in 175,223,510. Winners can take a lump-sum payment or annual payments over 30 years.
In 2005, California joined the MegaMillions lottery, which set a record last April with a $656 million grand prize, split among three winners.