Powerball fever hits California as Wednesday jackpot tops $360 million

Powerball Lottery

John Rabe/KPCC

The Powerball lottery jackpot is $360 million Wednesday, one of the largest in the lotto game's history. (Photo: A Powerball ticket purchased in April 2013 in Cypress Park on the first day of the lottery's arrival in California. State lottery officials say first day sales topped $3 million.)

It's been more than a month since the Powerball lottery game kicked off in California - it's at $360 million now.  The state's made money so far, but no one in the Golden State has won yet. But that may be creating more action for other lottery games in the state. 

Between April 8, when the game first started in California, and last week, the state has generated nearly $70 million in Powerball sales. 

No one from the state has won the Powerball since it became available in California.

Alex Traverso with the California Lottery said that's helping to spur sales. But he said lottery officials weren't sure how the game would play out here at first.

"We knew that the game is a $2 game and so we wanted to wait and see how that worked out for our players," said Traverso. "It's a new price point obviously.  Our players are used to buying SuperLotto Plus tickets and MegaMillions tickets for a dollar." 

Traverso said more people are buying more tickets for those lotto games, too.

Last week, California broke a national record by collecting more than $3.5 million in sales in just one day.  That's when the jackpot was worth $222 million. Its now swelled by $100 million more.

About 30 cents of every dollar the lottery generates goes to California schools.  In 2012,  that amounted to slightly more than $1 billion. State officials expect Powerball will help sweep in more revenue this year.

The Multi-State Lottery Association administers the Powerball lotto game. 

Lottery officials expect jackpot totals of this size to continue to climb in shorter amounts of time, thanks in part to a game redesign in January 2012 that increased the odds of winning some kind of prize, but also lowered the possible number combinations to win the Powerball.

There's also "cross-selling" of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets - states being able to sell both Powerball tickets and Mega Millions tickets - that began in January 2010. As a result, large jackpots will continue to surpass all-time jackpot records set years ago, said Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery. Iowa is one of the founding Powerball states.

 "It usually took a handful of months, if not several months, for a jackpot to reach this large amount," she said. "Now it's achieving that within a handful of weeks. I think the redesign is achieving exactly what we had wanted it to achieve, which is the bigger, faster-growing jackpot."

 The redesign means players don't necessarily have to strike big to get lucky. A $1 increase and new $1 million and $2 million prizes means the odds of winning something have increased. Just last Saturday, there was no Powerball jackpot winner, but more than a dozen tickets won $1 million prizes in 10 states.

In fact, more than half of the all-time jackpot records have been reached in the last three years. The top two all-time jackpots - $656 million from a Mega Millions jackpot and $587.5 million from a Powerball jackpot - were achieved in 2012.           

The last major jackpot win came when a New Jersey man won a $338.3 million jackpot on March 23. It is now considered the fourth largest Powerball jackpot in history.

With contributions by AP

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