SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Get your lucky numbers ready lotto players. The California Lottery’s newest offering, Powerball, went on sale bright and early Monday morning.
Powerball is a multi-state, mega-jackpot lottery game with draws closing every Wednesday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and winning numbers being drawn at 7:59 p.m.
Each play will cost $2 and the first Powerball draw, which includes California sales, will be Wednesday.
Powerball jackpots start at $40 million, but if there are no Grand Prize winners, the jackpot will increase at a minimum of $10 million per roll. If there is more than one Grand Prize winner, the jackpot will be divided equally among them.
For those lucky few who draw the right numbers, the Powerball prize is paid in 30 annual installments unless the winner determines to choose the Powerball Cash Option. The Cash Option for a Powerball jackpot must be made by the jackpot winner within 60 days after the Lottery authorizes payment. For multiple ownership claims, the claimants must unanimously elect the same payment option.
But Powerball winners are not the only ones who benefit from the game, sales help supplement public education budgets in the State of California just like the sales from all other California Lottery games. More than 96 cents of every dollar spent by players goes back to local communities in the form of contributions to public schools and colleges, prizes and retail compensation.
According to lottery officials, Powerball was introduced to California after much study because research showed that the game will help maximize the amount of money the Lottery can earn for California’s public schools. In addition, there have been many requests from players and retailers that they’d like to see the game in the Lottery’s portfolio of games.
However, there is one aspect of the game that will not be included in California: the PowerPlay feature. Officials said California prizes are pari-mutuel by law and PowerPlay cannot be applied to pari-mutuel prizes.
The California Lottery said it urges its customers to play responsibly and within their budgets. However, if you feel you have a gambling problem, or know someone who does, you can get help at 800-GAMBLER.
A BAD BET: IT'LL BE YOU
It's true to say that you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than winning the Powerball. But that woefully understates the danger of lightning.
Tim Norfolk, a University of Akron mathematics professor who teaches a course on gambling, puts the odds of a lightning strike in a person's lifetime at 1 in 5,000. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot: 1 in 175 million.
While weather is the go-to analogy for such astronomical odds, Norfolk suggests there are better ones.
For example, you'd have a slightly better chance of randomly picking the name of one specific female in the United States: 1 in 157 million, according to the latest census.
VICTORY LOVES COMPANY
Should you win the jackpot, there's a good chance you'll have to share -- and not just with family, friends and Uncle Sam.
The odds of someone winning increase as the ticket sales do. So, too, do the odds of duplicate tickets, especially for people who choose their own numbers rather than letting the computers pick.
Prefer the lucky numbers of 7 or 11? You're not alone. How about a loved one's birthday? It's 31 or lower -- digits more frequently duplicated than 32 and up. (There are 59 white balls and 35 red balls in the draw).
Norfolk predicts that if there is a winner, there will be multiple ones because mathematical theory shows that numbers have a way of clustering, even at much smaller sample sizes.
If you take 23 random people, there's about a 50-50 chance that at least two will have the same birthday, Norfolk said. Throw choice into the equation -- about 20 percent of players typically select their own numbers -- and the clusters could be even more defined.
That played out in March, when three tickets from Kansas, Maryland and Illinois split the world-record $656 million Mega Millions jackpot.
A single ticket holds Powerball's current record of $365 million in 2006, shared by several ConAgra Foods Workers in Lincoln, Neb.
FEELING LUCKY IN A BAD ECONOMY
Gambling experts say a majority of Americans will play some lottery game at least once in a given year.
Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis at UMass-Dartmouth, says addicted gamblers are less likely to turn to massive jackpot ticket games like Powerball than scratch-off games.
"Scratch-off players are looking for instant gratification and an instant win," Barrow said. "A lot of those people don't like playing lotto because you have to wait. You have to sit on it for a few days."
While it may seem counterintuitive, Barrow says gambling activity often increases as the economy gets worse and people have less disposable income. However, his research -- which focused mainly on New England -- found the trend reversed in the latest downturn.
"The Great Recession has been so deep and so long, it's suppressed any kind of discretionary spending across the board," said Barrow, who added about the same percentage of people are playing the lottery -- they're just buying fewer tickets.
Chuck Strutt, executive director of Multi-State Lottery Association, said sales largely stayed flat during the peak of the recession in 2008 and 2009, but picked up since.
"Our biggest factor is gas prices," he said. "If people go to a gas station and put 80 bucks of gas in their car, they're not feeling happy to buy a lottery ticket."