There's no way of telling how many people might lay claim to an $800-million Powerball jackpot Saturday night, but lottery officials insist that Califonia schools will be among the winners.
Thanks to a California law that requires at least $1 billion of the state's education funding to come from lottery revenues -- or about 1% of the state's spending -- a monster-sized jackpot can inject significant cash into the education spending plan.
"When we do our budgeting, we keep our fingers crossed for a jackpot like this because it really pumps up our numbers for education," said state lottery spokesman Alex Traverso.
With each $2 Powerball ticket purchased in California, about 80 cents goes toward education, Traverso said. The money is divided among K-12 schools and community colleges and universities. Powerball is played in 44 states and three U.S. territories.
Nobody has hit all six Powerball numbers in the last 18 drawings. The jackpot has swelled to $800 million, the biggest in lottery history, and it could increase again Saturday, officials said.
This week's lottery rush marks a significant change from the jackpot scrambles of just a few years ago.
In 2010, lawmakers lifted the cap on how much lottery revenue could go toward jackpots in the hope that it would pull in more customers and boost lagging education revenue. It worked.
Though there was less money set aside for education percentage-wise, the increase in customers more than made up for the difference, reports show.
In 2015, about $1.39 billion was set aside for education out of $5.5 billion in lottery revenues, according to the agency's online financial report. The bulk of that revenue (about $3.9 billion) came from scratchers.
But scratchers are more expensive to make. They require glossy print, thicker paper and material to cover numbers, Traverso said. They also offer big jackpots. The state's most expensive scratcher costs $30 and offers a $10-million prize. Because of these expenses, less than a quarter of each dollar spent goes toward education.
Powerball, Mega Millions and Super Lotto tickets, on the other hand, are cheap, he said. About 50 cents of every dollar goes toward the jackpot, leaving about 40 cents for education and the remaining for agency costs.
So with a massive Powerball ticket-buying frenzy like the one going on this week, the money is flowing in for California schools, he said.
"People are out buying them in droves," he said.
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