DES MOINES, Iowa – No need to cross state lines to get the big-jackpot lotto tickets. Dozens of states will begin selling both Mega Millions and Powerball tickets on Sunday, moving the U.S. a step closer to having a national lottery.
By the time all the states sign on to the new system this spring, the nation's two biggest lotteries will be sold in 43 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"We expect there will be larger jackpots faster. We expect there to be more winners," said Margaret DeFrancisco, co-chair of a committee for both lotteries and president and CEO of the Georgia Lottery Corp.
Powerball, with drawings on Wednesdays and Saturdays, is played in 31 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S Virgin Islands. Twenty-three of those places will sell tickets for Mega Millions beginning with the Feb. 2 drawing. Mega Millions, with drawings on Tuesdays and Fridays, is played in 12 states. Ten of them will sell tickets for Powerball starting with the Feb. 3 drawing.
The change could end the tradition of driving into a border state to buy tickets for another game when jackpots climb.
Ermelinda Ribero, a Powerball customer at Angie's State Line Package Store on the Connecticut/Massachusetts line in Enfield, Conn., usually buys her Mega Millions tickets in her hometown of Longmeadow, Mass. She said Friday that the change will let her make one stop instead of two.
"Since I never win in Massachusetts, maybe I'll win here," she joked.
Customers at Casey's General Store in the southeast Iowa city of Keokuk, just across the Mississippi River from Illinois, have been talking about the change, said general manager Michelle Walker.
"They've asked for sure when the right date is and when they'll be able to start purchasing," said Walker, who added that she herself will also stop driving into Illinois to buy Mega Millions.
In downtown Savannah, Ga., a sign went up Friday at Chirag Patel's convenience store, advertising Powerball tickets that previously required a drive across the Savannah River into South Carolina.
"Regular players, they ask, 'When are you going to start?"' he said. "One way or the other, people want to be a millionaire in this economy."
The estimated jackpot for Friday's Mega Millions drawing was $144 million, and it was $90 million for Saturday's Powerball drawing — both before the Sunday cross-selling begins.
Some retailers aren't expecting a flood of new business. Brian Chapel, owner of Everett's Liquor Store in South Beloit, Ill., right across the state line from Beloit, Wis., said Illinois offering Powerball tickets should help offset any potential losses from Wisconsin Mega Millions customers staying in their state.
Plus, he said, most of his lottery customers are regulars, sometimes stopping in daily to play other Illinois-specific games.
"People pick where they buy their tickets based on the retailer," Chapel said.
Powerball and Mega Millions have been working on the logistics since October. Most states not yet cross-selling the tickets are expected to approve the change by spring, said Tom Shaheen, president of the Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball.
DeFrancisco said that assuming customers like the change, lottery officials will soon focus on a true national lottery. They hope that will happen by spring 2011, but haven't sorted out many details, including a name or drawing frequency.
Mega Millions holds the record for the largest U.S. lottery jackpot — $390 million on March 6, 2007. The largest Powerball jackpot was $365 million on Feb. 18, 2006.
In Mega Millions, players pick six numbers from two separate pools of numbers — five different numbers from 1 to 56 and one number from 1 to 46. The jackpot is won by matching all six winning numbers, the odds of which are 1 in 175 million.
The game is played in: California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Washington state. Those not yet selling Powerball tickets are: California, Ohio.
In Powerball, players pick six numbers from two different pools of numbers — five numbers from 1 to 59 and a Powerball from 1 to 39. Odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 195 million.
Powerball is played in: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Those not yet selling Mega Millions tickets are: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, U.S. Virgin Islands.