Five states and the District of Columbia agreed today to launch the nation's first coast-to-coast lottery, a weekly game called "Lotto America" that organizers hailed as the largest in the country.
Rhode Island, West Virginia, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon and the District of Columbia signed agreements to participate. Missouri may join shortly but is awaiting approval from a special state legislative committee.
"It means that the participating states and the District of Columbia can now generate more revenue and allow . . . the people that play the lottery to play for extremely large jackpots," Peter J. O'Connell, chairman of the Multistate Lottery, said.
Officials expect ticket sales to begin early next year, possibly by February.
Iowa will serve as the host state for the joint venture, and the weekly game will be transmitted by satellite for broadcast in the other participating states.
O'Connell said he expected more states will want to join the lottery, perhaps leading to a nationwide game like one played in Canada.
"I see the day in the future when all the lottery states will have a common game," O'Connell said.
At least for now, the lottery will have a potential pool of 11.5 million people and that could soon grow to 16.5 million if Missouri signs on.
Officials in the multistate organization hope that the lottery will offer average jackpots of $3 million to $5 million a week, with the possibility of higher prizes.