SACRAMENTO — After an 11-month incubation, the long-delayed California lottery will finally come to life shortly after noon Oct. 3, when 400 million tickets go on sale at nearly 20,000 retailers from one end of the state to the other.
When the games begin, they will be the largest lottery operation in the world, with an estimated $1 billion in profits in its first year.
Jackpot drawings for up to $2 million will begin within three weeks after the first tickets go on sale.
Gov. George Deukmejian, a longtime foe of the state's new gambling games who has refused to take part in the opening ceremonies, nevertheless showed up Wednesday at a state Capitol news conference to formally announce the lottery start-up date.
Aid to Education
"I want California's lottery to be a success because of its importance to education and because the people voted for it," Deukmejian said, explaining his presence at the news conference.
Besides, the governor quipped, he had been asked so many times when the lottery will begin that he thought it was "appropriate" that he be the one to announce the starting date.
But Deukmejian will not be one of the millions of California expected to buy the instant $1 scratch-off tickets that will go on sale in October, promising prizes ranging from $2 to $5,000.
"What would happen if I bought a lottery ticket and won? There is no way I could possibly explain to people that there hadn't been some kind of irregularities," Deukmejian joked.
Deukmejian has opposed the lottery because he does not think the state should be in the business of promoting gambling. "I don't think it's good for the state or good public policy to go out and push and urge people to gamble," the governor said earlier this year.
But Deukmejian demurred Wednesday when--flanked by top lottery officials--he was asked about those criticisms. "The people, of course, have voted for this lottery," he said. "I am hopeful it will be successful. I certainly don't want to see it, nor do I expect it to be a failure."
Also revealed Wednesday was the new symbol for the lottery--a bright golden "L" on a field of green. The symbol signifies the "vigor of the California sun," the Golden Poppy and the green farmlands of California, according to lottery public affairs director William Seaton.
"Or the green of several million dollars," Seaton added with a laugh.
The logo will appear on lottery advertising material and at the stores, bars, beauty shops, dry cleaners, hot dog stands and other businesses that will sell the tickets across the state.
The lottery's first day will be filled with hoopla from San Diego to Los Angeles to Sacramento to San Francisco. Big promotional events in those four cities will begin at noon and will include hot air balloons, bands, choral groups, lottery mementos and ticket giveaways.
In order to reap as many lottery dollars as possible the first day, special ticket kiosks will be set up near the start-up events.
In addition, in Los Angeles, an evening concert is planned, featuring college talent, guest celebrities, fireworks and a laser display. A lottery ticket will be required for admission to the event.
Californians also can expect a full round of high-jinks and TV and radio commercials in advance of the games, such as the prank played Tuesday night when lottery agents covered a letter "L" in the giant Hollywood sign with a red-orange material to resemble the new lottery logo.
Stalled for Months
The lottery--approved by 58% of the voters in the November, 1984, election--was supposed to begin March 21 but was stalled by a series of problems--among them, the five months it took Deukmejian to fill the $73,780-a-year post of lottery director.
Mark Michalko, the man ultimately selected to run the lottery, said preparations for the games had "moved as rapidly as humanly possible (but) cautiously" to ensure proper safeguards.
Michalko said the lottery had not been "extraordinarily slow" in getting started and said that other states, like Ohio and New Jersey, took longer than California to start theirs.
No mention was made Wednesday of the overwhelming odds that players will face. Out of 400 million tickets to be sold in the first game, there will be only 45,135,000 awards--40 million $2 winners, 5 million $5 winners, 100,000 $100 winners, 15,000 $500 winners, 10,000 $1,000 winners and 10,000 $5,000 winners. There will be 354,865,000 losing tickets.
Each player winning $100 will be eligible for a weekly drawing during which about 10 people will be picked to spin a giant wheel for jackpots of up to $2 million. Most of the jackpot spins will be made during a weekly prime-time television show.
By law, 50% of lottery revenues will go for prizes, at least 34% for education and not more than 16% for administration and promotion.