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Lottery panel votes to bring Powerball game to California

Tickets will go on sale in April. The vote comes a day after the multi-state game attracted wide attention for its largest jackpot ever.

November 30, 2012|By Wesley Lowery and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times
  • With television cameras rolling, manager Bob Chebat, middle, hands over Wes Prinzen's modest $4 winnings at the Four Sons convenience store in suburban Fountain Hills, Ariz., where one of the winning tickets in the $588-million Powerball game was purchased. The other winning ticket was sold in Missouri.
With television cameras rolling, manager Bob Chebat, middle, hands over… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)

Californians griping about not getting their shot at the recent $587.5-million Powerball jackpot won't have much longer to complain.

The California Lottery Commission voted unanimously Thursday to bring the popular multi-state game to California. Tickets, which cost $2 each, will go on sale at licensed lottery merchants in April.

The vote comes a day after the game attracted wide attention for its largest jackpot ever.

"That would have been worth an investment of my dollar, but I didn't want to go all the way to Arizona to buy a ticket," said Alfred Reeves, 51, as he stood by his car outside Country Donut Shop in Long Beach. "Now I won't have to."

California is one of eight states that do not sell Powerball tickets. The others are Utah, Nevada, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi and Wyoming.

Lottery officials said the game is especially popular because the prize starts at $40 million — compared with the $12-million starting point of the Mega Millions jackpot — and increases by $5 million each time the drawing doesn't produce a winner.

"There's always a bit of a frenzy out there when the jackpot gets up there," said Russ Lopez, a California Lottery Commission spokesman.

The commission believes that adding the Powerball game could add between $90 million and $120 million annually in net revenue. Lottery commission officials said at least $50 million to $100 million of that will go directly to California schools.

At Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne, a "lucky" market that is legendary for drawing long lotto lines, customers welcomed the Powerball news.

"People here are jumping up and down. We are so excited," said employee Eduardo Duran. "Customers have been asking us about Powerball all week. We've even had a few people tell us they were headed to Arizona to buy tickets."

The process of bringing Powerball to California began last December. Lottery officials first commissioned a study to analyze the logistics of implementing the game in California before ultimately recommending that sales be offered in 2013.

To play Powerball, a participant must purchase a $2 ticket and pick five unique numbers from a field of 1 through 59, and then a Powerball number from 1 through 35. Players can win by matching three or more of the unique numbers, or by matching the Powerball number alone, or by matching the Powerball number and one or more of the five unique numbers. In all, there are nine winning combinations. Players can increase their winnings by paying for a $3 ticket.

Drawings are held twice a week.

Danny Ta, owner of Long Beach Dairy & Liquor, said he will talk to his lottery representative about selling Powerball tickets because he knows the game is in high demand.

"I've had customers always asking me for the game, but I tell them California doesn't have it, only in other states," he said.

Ta said that if he does get the game for his store, he hopes to sell the winning ticket someday.

"Hopefully," he said, smiling.

wesley.lowery@latimes.com

ruben.vives@latimes.com

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