Rafael Moreno picks his lucky numbers as people form a line for Powerball… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
If first-day sales are any indication, California's bet on Powerball is paying off.
Tickets for the multistate game -- sold in the Golden State for the first time Monday -- generated a record-setting $3.1 million in its first 24 hours, with about 700,000 players participating, California Lottery spokesman Russ Lopez said Tuesday. About $1 million of that was made by noon.
And sales are continuing to climb, Lopez said. The latest cumulative count from Tuesday placed the total close to $4 million.
"We knew that Powerball was going to be healthy. We knew we were going to make some good healthy sales," Lopez said. "This really kind of blew us away."
The sales shattered the previous first-day record set by Florida, which debuted Powerball in 2009, Lopez said. Sales topped $1.5 million that day, according to the Florida Lottery.
Powerball marks a further effort by California lottery to go beyond Scratchers to larger games with much higher jackpots. Last year, the state lottery got a taste of possibilities when its Mega Millions multistate game grew to a $656-million prize. That game alone added $300 million in sales for the lottery over two months, resulting in a 27% increase in total revenues for the year.
Powerball is even bigger than Mega Millions, with a starting jackpot that is more than three times as large. The games are similar — requiring players to match up to six numbers — and the odds of hitting the jackpot in each of the games are almost exactly the same: 1 in about 175 million.
On Monday, scores of players flocked to local liquor stores and 7-Elevens to buy tickets. In Hawthorne, Bluebird Liquor began selling tickets at 7 a.m., employee Eduardo Duran said. By noon, about 8,000 had been purchased.
"As far as business, you can see it's good," Duran said, gesturing to a line that snaked out the door.
John Apodaca, 62, of Hawthorne was part of that line. The veteran said that after he returned from Vietnam, a woman read his palm and said he would be a rich man — so he goes to the Bluebird Liquor store every day at the same time and plays the same numbers. He's there so often that an employee welcomed him with a salute.
Apodaca has played Powerball before — in New York, while visiting his daughter. The game's arrival in California was all he needed to feel a little extra luck Monday.
"The Powerball came to me," he said. "I didn't go to the Powerball this time."
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