In California, billion is the new million

The California Lottery attributes the run of billion-dollar Powerball jackpots to the large number of tickets sold by the state.

In California, billion is the new million

Amid big jackpot wins and mass lottery hysteria, the California Lottery remains committed to promoting responsible play.

For so many, the State of California—as home to the country’s entertainment industry—has been looked upon as the gateway to fame and stardom.

Living up to that alluring image, California, aka the ‘Golden State,’ has indeed made many a film or TV person’s dreams come true.

Now, with the state's lottery going gangbusters by selling three of the top winning billion-dollar Powerball tickets within just this past year (2023) alone*, it may be fair to say that the State of California can also now add ‘lucky lottery locale’ or ‘land of prosperity’ to its extensive list of attributes.

*Group includes the top two largest jackpots ever won in U.S. history, in addition to the eighth largest.

In California, where winners are required to have their names publicly released, some big jackpot claimers delay coming forward as they have a year to go so before forfeiting their prize moneys.

California's big winners

Thus, the following is a brief run-down of the state's known top winners - coincidentally, all sold within the SoCal region.

  • $2.04 billion, Powerball, Nov. 8, 2022 (One ticket, sold in Altadena, California to Edwin Castro.) Take-away money: $997.6 million.
  • $1.765 billion, Powerball, Oct. 11, 2023 (One ticket, sold in Frazier Park, California, remains unclaimed.)
  • $1.08 billion, Powerball, July 19, 2023 (One ticket, sold in downtown Los Angeles, remains unclaimed.)

On account of the unlikeliness of such a three-repeat occurrence, the media has even gone so far as to dub the State of California as a ‘Statistical Anomaly.’

When asked about the phenomenal streak of jackpot winners, in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Lottery USA, California State Lottery Deputy Director of Public Affairs and Communications Carolyn Becker explained:

California is home to more lottery players than any other state, so while it doesn't come as a surprise, we're thrilled to celebrate their win with them.

Carolyn Becker, California Lottery

Carolyn Becker, California Lottery's Deputy Director of Public Affairs & Communications

Photo credit: Courtesy of the CA Lottery

California Lottery stats

Per Becker's rationale, in addition to having the good fortune to have produced the most number of top billion dollar ticket winners, in comparison with other states, the State of California also consistently ranks high in terms of revenue generated from the sales of lottery tickets.

According to Statista, the breakdown of 2022-2033 annual revenue derived from sales of lottery tickets is estimated (in billions of dollars) to be as follows:

  • New York $10.35
  • Florida $9.32
  • California $8.65*

CA Lottery beneficiaries

Based upon the California State Lottery Commission’s (CSLC) financial reports, as a result of the $8.65 billion* in revenue funds generated, $1.7 billion will be directed towards educational purposes—the dedicated beneficiary of the state’s lottery.

In 1984, when California voters approved the inception of the lottery, it was determined that public schools across the State of California, inclusive of K through 12 schools, community colleges, and public universities, would be the recipient of a set percentage* of the money generated from the sale of tickets.

Currently, the exact figure that is donated is eighty cents on every $2 Powerball or Mega Millions ticket purchased. Calculated out over the year 2022, this resulted in more than $2 billion dollars going back to California state schools.

While a continual source of excitement and, perhaps more notably, revenue, the multi-state draws are not the only lottery games in town.

CA Lottery games

Encapsulated within the motto, “A Little Play Can Make Your Day,” the state collectively showcases its windfall of game options while imparting the overriding idea that “Play” is necessary for everyday life and ‘Scratchers,’ in particular, offer a good way to add a little unexpected fun.

‘Scratchers’, the term used in reference to the state's rotating array of scratch-off tickets, along with the robust line-up of daily draws games: Fantasy 5, Daily 4, Daily 3, Daily Derby, and Hot Spot, which miraculously is drawn every four minutes from 6 am to 2 am, serve to complement the multi-state games and further helps to secure California's top spot in annual revenue sales of lottery sales.

Not all fun & games

But all at the California Lottery is not about revenue. Rather, Becker assures the idea of ‘safe and moderate play’ is paramount:

While it's easy and fun to get caught up in the excitement —we also want to remind players to be responsible. No one should be spending more than they can afford on lottery tickets.

Continuing on the cautionary theme, with the holidays quickly approaching, the California Lottery, as a participant in the national lottery holiday campaign "Scratchers Aren't Toys,” – joins up with the international responsible gaming effort sponsored by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) and McGill University's International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors to promote responsible gift-giving.

Essentially, the aim of promoting responsible gifting is to help eliminate the selling or gifting of lottery products to minors.

As Becker stresses:

It is of paramount importance to the California Lottery that the integrity of our games be taken extraordinarily seriously.

Responsible play

This would definitely appear to be true, as — stated on the California Lottery's website—“The holiday campaign is just one of many endeavors that the California Lottery has undertaken to strengthen and improve its responsible gaming record.”

As a focal point of their operations, the California Lottery places a high premium on responsible play, so much so that they were the first in the U.S. to hold a Level Four international certification, the highest level awarded by the World Lottery Association for responsible gaming programs.

All in all, the California Lottery prides itself on maintaining that deft balance between promotion and education - encouraging both the purchase of tickets and the practice of moderation around play.

That being said, as Florida Today reported — Powerball and Mega Millions lottery jackpots have hit the $1 billion or more mark eight times in the game's history. With the high probability of more billion-dollar jackpots to come, California is unlikely to shy away from the opportunity to once again beat the statistical odds and claim another winner.

So long as it is done in a responsible manner.