Californians Champing at the Bit Over Powerball Debut
California became the 43rd state to join the Powerball lottery on Monday, with an estimated starting jackpot of $60 million. Ahead of the new game's debut, the lottery rolled out a huge promotional push for the $2 tickets and bigger potential jackpots than Super Lotto Plus and Mega Millions.
The state has been peppered with billboards that said "believe" and TV commercials to the song "California Dreaming."
The lottery even brought a public art installation, called Redball project to the state. It wasn't conceived of in conjunction with Powerball, but it fits neatly, and the lottery has had it tour the state, ending at the Lottery's Sacramento headquarters Monday.
So what's it worth to California? Powerball is expected to generate $350 million in annual sales, but the multi-state lottery association projected this game will into the others, for a net increase of $100 million. Half the proceeds go to the winner, ten percent to administrative costs, and forty percent goes to schools.
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That means if Powerball drives a net increase of $100 million, then California schools will get a $40 million bump. That's just a tiny drop in the bucket considering the golden state has $68 billion in annual education spending.
But there are some ancillary winners: the 21,500 retailers of the tickets generally cash in on higher sales. California Lottery director Robert O'Neill said, "All of our shopper studies show that Lottery players go in more frequently to the convenience stores. And they buy more goods. So I think there's a tremendous benefit for the retailers—they see more traffic and they get improved sales."
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The game requires players pick 5 numbers between 1 and 59 and a Powerball number from 1 to 35, so the chances of winning the top prize are literally next to nothing—less than 175 million. And even though people are somewhat aware of the odds, that isn't stopping the stream of wanna-be winners we've seen come through the Farmer's Market News Stand in Los Angeles.
One Powerball player, Mario Roccuzzo said he doesn't mind the odds: "It's fun and doesn't cost that much. As long as you keep it under control and just spend a couple bucks and that it's not more than you can afford to lose."
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To quote another buyer, Ali Awad, "You've got to be in it to win it."
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin