$400-million Powerball jackpot said to be nation’s sixth-largest

A $400-million jackpot just isn’t as exciting as it used to be.

Just two months ago, the Mega Millions game produced a $648-million jackpot, and a few months before that, Powerball produced a $400-million jackpot of its own.

But Wednesday’s estimated $400-million drawing will still be the sixth-largest in U.S. lottery history, a California Lottery official said Tuesday.  

“We’re getting into this routine now where this is becoming normal,” spokesman Alex Traverso said, “which is great for us because when you look at sales, they’re steadily climbing.”


Traverso said that year-to-date, the California Lottery is generating about 150% of the revenue as during the same period in the previous fiscal year. Even though sales are no longer “exploding” as they were when the wave of nine-digit jackpots began, he said that collectively, the spikes in sales add up.   

“I don’t even know what it takes to get the office pool going anymore,” he said. “To get the casual player it takes maybe a half a billion dollars, which has a nicer ring to it.”

The bigger jackpots are drawing more players and excitement to the California Lottery after years of decline. The turnaround is a result of changes made to the lottery in 2010, when revenue was falling. The changes brought bigger prizes, but they also altered the formula for how much revenue schools receive.

California joined Powerball last April, and since then, enormous jackpots have become more common. About a month after the state joined the game, a Powerball jackpot climbed to about $600 million, setting a record for the game.


Officials say that with Powerball’s $2 tickets, jackpots in that game can rise faster with fewer tickets sold than in a game like Mega Millions, which costs $1 per play.

The odds of winning Wednesday’s big Powerball prize are about 1 in 175 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Assn. For Saturday’s drawing, California sold more than 151,000 winning tickets for smaller prizes ranging from $3 to $5,937, according to the California Lottery.

If Wednesday’s jackpot rolls over, Traverso said Saturday’s draw will probably offer a prize around $500 million. Traverso said he believed less than 50% of the possible number combinations had been sold as of Tuesday. 


Twitter: @MattStevensLAT