Local News

North Carolina Lottery Will Join Powerball

Posted December 19, 2005

— Powerball

is coming to North Carolina.

The state lottery commission agreed Monday to join the multistate numbers game that allows residents to play for huge prizes without crossing the border to buy tickets.

Last month, an Oregon family claimed a $340 million Powerball prize, the second-largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history. The chance for the big money prompted long lines at lottery outlets nationwide.

"When they think of big jackpots, they think of Powerball," said John Musgrave, chairman of the Multistate Lottery Association that operates Powerball on behalf of 28 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Lottery commission executive director Tom Shaheen predicted North Carolina lottery outlets will sell the first Powerball tickets for the twice weekly drawing in early July, about three months after a self-imposed deadline to get start selling scratch-off tickets in the state.

North Carolina accepted Powerball's invitation to join after multistate competitor Mega Millions chose not to make a presentation to North Carolina lottery commissioners meeting Monday in Raleigh.

"They're not accepting any more members at this point in time," commission chairman Charles Sanders said.

Mega Millions chairwoman Margaret DeFrancisco said her 12-state confederation agreed to stop taking new members for 12 months after bringing California on board in June and tweaking its six-number game.

"It's just more a matter of timing," said DeFrancisco, who is also the Georgia Lottery chief executive.

Shaheen said it made sense to choose Powerball, since Charlotte-area residents already play the game in South Carolina, which is also a Powerball member. The Virginia Lottery offers Mega Millions.

"You're just better off giving a majority of the people what they're used to playing. Because it's their game," Shaheen told commissioners. "Powerball has the greatest (name) recognition. There is no doubt in my mind."

Virginia Lottery spokeswoman Jill Vaughan contended that people living along the Virginia border "will continue to travel to Virginia to purchase Mega Millions tickets."

North Carolina needed to enter a multistate game to get additional revenues for education, Shaheen said. North Carolina will not be able to generate the anticipated $400 million-plus in annual profit without it, he said.

"Your players want Powerball, and the reason you joined is because Powerball will raise more dollars for education, which is why you're really here," Rebecca Paul, the lottery's chief executive in Tennessee, another Powerball state. Powerball tickets comprise 20 percent of all tickets sold in Tennessee.

Paul said Powerball wanted North Carolina to join because it means larger jackpots. North Carolina has been the largest state in the country without a lottery before Gov. Mike Easley signed the lottery law in August.

Each Powerball member gets to keep half of the ticket sale revenues generated for the game in their state. The other half goes toward prize money, including the top jackpot, which starts at $15 million but goes up with each drawing without a winner.

Powerball players with $1 ticket have nine different ways to win with smaller prizes ranging from $3 to $200,000, depending on how many winning numbers are chosen. Five white balls are drawn out of a drum with 55 numbered balls, followed by one red ball out of a drum of 42. The lower-tier prizes can be multiplied up to a factor of five with a $2 ticket.

Shaheen said he doesn't expect North Carolina to have its own lotto game similar to Powerball because the jackpot totals can never reach Powerball's levels, making it difficult to lure occasional players to take a chance.

"An in-state (lotto) game does not produce enough interest any more," he said. The North Carolina lottery will still offer daily numbers games starting in September or October, he said.

The commission also Monday signed off on the application and the rules retailers will have to follow to qualify to sell lottery tickets. Details are still being worked out on what kind of background checks the commission or state law enforcement will perform on retailers.

Parameters for two vendor contracts --one for instant ticket and automated numbers game systems and the second for instant ticket printing and distribution -- should be finalized by Tuesday, Shaheen said. He wants contract bids returned by mid-January.

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