California Lottery Sees Surge in Popularity

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    More people are playing California's lottery after years of decline because more money is being pumped back into the prize pool and that has increased the jackpots.

    Changes made to the system in 2010 altered a formula that gave the lottery flexibility in determining its education contribution. By doing so, officials say, the lottery has larger payouts that fueled the recent resurgence, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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    The lottery was approved by voters in 1984 to supplement public school funding and had more than $4 billion in ticket sales last year.

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    The contribution to public education was once set at a minimum of 34 percent of its revenue while the amount of money going to prizes was capped at 50 percent. However, some officials believed the prizes were too small to lure more players.

    With revenues declining, a bill was passed several years ago that has resulted in players seeing their potential winnings jump 59 percent. But the new allocations don't explicitly state a percentage that must be given to schools, only that it's higher than the amount given in 2009 and rise slightly every year. If neither condition is met, the allocation formula reverts to pre-2010 percentages.

    Although the long-term effect of the changes isn't clear, lottery officials said the boom has helped California which also has joined the multi-state Mega Millions and Powerball sweepstakes. A San Jose man recently split a $648 Mega Millions jackpot, the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history.

    "Once we changed those (allocations), the frenzy begins,'' lottery spokesman Russ Lopez said.

    About 1 percent of education funding comes from the lottery. In the 2011-12 fiscal year, the lottery gave $1.3 billion to education, the 12th straight year that the lottery contributed more than $1 billion.

    The lottery also forwards to education any winnings unclaimed for 180 days. An extra $20 million went to education last year from those proceeds.