The modern version of the state lottery started in 1964 with New Hampshire. It had taken about 75 years for the bad taste of the corrupt lotteries of the second half of the 19th century to leave the national consciousness. It took a very long time, but the bad taste is gone – today 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U. S. Virgins Islands all have lotteries. And in November 0f 2012, those lotteries are linked together for one super jackpot. The $500 million jackpot proves several things; there is no lingering moral objection or distrust of the state lottery; the bigger the jackpot the faster the tickets sell; and all of the participating states love the buying frenzy generated by really big jackpots.
The increasingly larger jackpots were engineered by the lottery association with the intent of creating just what we have with the latest Powerball jackpot – the desire of everyone in the United States to buy a ticket to instant riches. With 24 hours to go before the drawing tickets are selling at 100,000 a minute – $200,000 a minute, $12 million an hour. The Powerball jackpot will be worth more than a half a billion dollars on Wednesday, November 28th. If it no one wins on Wednesday on Saturday when the next drawing will take place, the jackpot should be worth nearly a billion dollars. That billion dollar jackpot is likely to trigger a buying frenzy unlike anything we have ever seen in this country; more intense than Black Friday or Cyber Monday. But why stop there, image what will happen if the jackpot is not hit in the next two drawings?
That idea is scary. It is scary for the gaming industry, scary for public safety officials trying to control traffic and scary for the overall economy. Should that jackpot grow to over a billion dollars it will impact Christmas retail spending in a significant way. Why, you may ask? Well, if 12 million dollars (or $24 million or $36 million) a minute are being spent on the lottery, that will be 12, 24 or 36 million dollars that will not be spent on movies, casinos, clothes, restaurants or anything else. Disposable income is just that disposable – that extra bit of cash that we can spend as we choose. However, once we have disposed of it – it is spent – disposed and that means, unless you win the jackpot – dead, done and all gone.
A Jackpot over $600 million is virgin territory; up to this point we have learned something about the size of jackpots and how they impact lottery sales, consumer behavior and the national consciousness. When the jackpot goes over $200 million, sales begin to pick up significantly. When the jackpot goes over $300 million the sales rate increases even more and it begins to have an impact on overall spending patterns. When the jackpot goes over $400 million it starts to become a national news item and increasingly influences national spending habits. At that size, the jackpots also starts to impact public safety by creating long lines and traffic problems. When the jackpot goes over $500 million it becomes a major news story and is covered by all of the national and regional media. That far we have already traveled.
That is all we know now. What we do not know is what will happen if the jackpot goes over $750 million, $1 billion, $1.5 billion or $2 billion. If the jackpot grows to any of those billion-dollar ranges the drawing will be uncomfortably close to Christmas and right in the middle of the final shopping days of the season and the year. Of course, lottery directors are praying for just that, but casino operators are not praying for such a thing, nor should any other non-lottery ticket selling business be praying for billion dollar jackpots. Retailers have not been paying any attention yet or praying for anything – but they will if the jackpot continues to grow. To put that in a retail perspective, Cyber Monday sales rose 28% in 2012 over 2011 and reached a new record high – $1.6 billion. One person could win that much with a two dollar lottery ticket. Oh Lord, let it be me. I will be really, really good and live my life according to your will – I promise. Please?
Powerball selling 100,000 tickets per minute; “Nationally, Powerball is selling at an average rate of 105,000 tickets per minute. And, we expect sales to remain strong until game close for Wednesday night’s drawing.”;Player enthusiasm nationwide for Wednesday night’s Powerball jackpot, the largest in Powerball history, has resulted in record sales leading to an increase today in the estimated jackpot amount to $500 million — currently the largest in the world, and the second largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history. All profits from Powerball sales remain in the state where the tickets were sold. While this series of rollovers has not yet resulted in a jackpot winner, millions of players have won lower tier prizes of up to $2 million, retailers have netted millions in commissions collectively and revenue has been generated to support worthwhile causes in every Powerball state. Todd Northrop, Lottery Post, 11-27-12
Millions chase record $500M Powerball jackpot; Eight months after a trio of ticket buyers split a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot to set a world lottery record, Powerball is offering up a …$500 million jackpot, the largest in Powerball’s history. Jeff McMurray, Associated Press, 11-27-12
Record Powerball result of changes to boost sales;The historic $425 million Powerball jackpot was all part of a plan lottery officials put in place early this year to build jackpots faster, drive sales and generate more money for states that run the game…Powerball tickets doubled in price in January to $2, and while the number of tickets sold initially dropped, sales revenue has increased by about 35 percent over 2011. Sales for Powerball reached a record $3.96 billion in fiscal 2012 and are expected to reach $5 billion this year…There has been no Powerball winner since Oct. 6…behind only the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March. It took nine weeks for the Mega Millions jackpot to get that high, before three winners hit the right numbers, each collecting $218.6 million for their share of the split. David Pitt, Associated Press, 11-27-12
Hundreds line up for 1-in-175-million shot at Powerball lottery; Despite long odds — one shot in 175 million — of hitting the jackpot in Wednesday’s record $425 million Powerball lottery, hundreds of people are lining up at stores just inside the Arizona border to buy tickets. Presumably, many are from neighboring Nevada, which does not offer the lottery. About 500 people were lined up at lunchtime Monday to buy tickets at the Arizona Last Stop, about 30 miles southeast of Boulder City on U.S. 93. Conor Shine, Las Vegas Sun, 11-27-12
Wrapped up in Powerball frenzy, Floridians dish out the dollars; At noon today, Powerball tickets were flying off the shelf at a rate of 4,100 a minute, and the speed is likely to pick up as the drawing for the biggest Powerball jackpot on record approaches. Sonja Isger, Palm Beach Post, 11-27-12