SACRAMENTO — California's new lottery director, hoping to entice more players to gamble on the state's games of chance, will today propose an array of new games including a daily numbers game, a Nevada-style keno game, and a Super Lotto game that will make it easier to win a jackpot.
In a memorandum distributed to the State Lottery Commission on Wednesday, Director Sharon Sharp said she designed the new game strategy to give players better odds of winning a large "life-changing jackpot" as well as to give them "a fresh game that they can play and win any day of the week."
She said the new games would ultimately replace the current games of Lotto, Topper, Decco and Little Lotto.
The new proposals disclose for the first time Sharp's plans for rescuing California's lottery from a prolonged sales slump that prompted the ouster a month ago of her predecessor, Chon Gutierrez. Sharp's proposals must be approved by the five-member commission before they can take effect.
Some of her proposals, including the keno-type game, represent changes that Gutierrez had been working on when he was removed by Gov. Pete Wilson. Other changes copy games that have been successful in many Eastern states.
Although Gutierrez had announced a plan for changing California's most popular game--Lotto--before his departure, Sharp has a different approach for rekindling interest in that game.
Stung by players' negative reaction when he nearly doubled the odds of winning Lotto in an attempt to create bigger jackpots, Gutierrez had proposed returning the game to its original form. Players who now select six numbers from a field of 53 would pick six from a field of 49, as the game was originally constituted.
Sharp is recommending a less drastic change in which players select six numbers from 51. That would change the odds of winning the big jackpot from 1 in 23 million to 1 in 18 million.
At the same time, she is proposing that more of the prize pot go to the top Super Lotto winners, and that the present bonus number be eliminated. Under the current game plan, players get a prize for correctly selecting five numbers and the bonus number.
To replace Little Lotto, a game introduced last summer with a top jackpot of $500,000, Sharp recommended the creation of Fantasy Five, a game that has gained wide popularity in Florida and helped it become the nation's most successful lottery.
As she envisions the game, Sharp told the commission in the memorandum, Fantasy Five would offer "over three times as many total winners (as) Little Lotto," extra commissions for retailers who promote the game, and overall odds of 1 in 9 by combining the highest with the lowest prizes. Although she did not describe exactly how the game would work, it is expected to mirror the Florida game in which players pick five numbers from 39.
While Lotto drawings would still be held twice a week, daily drawings would be held for a new numbers game with a top prize of $500. Similar to games on the East Coast, the game would require players to pick three numbers.
Sharp, hoping to draw on the popularity of casino games in Nevada, gave a sketchy outline of a keno-style game that she said probably would not be introduced until next year. She said the game would provide an array of prizes, offer frequent drawings and permit players to choose different number combinations.
While it is too early to predict how players will react to the game changes, L.F. Love, publisher of Lotto Edge, a weekly Lotto magazine, said he expected that the creation of Fantasy Five and and a daily numbers game would be well received.
"A daily numbers game has been needed in California and should have been started five years ago," he said.
But he was less optimistic about the keno game, noting that in New York many players had found a similar game confusing because it offered so many choices.