So, what do we do about the California Lottery? For the past four or so years, the lottery has been static, bringing in about $2 billion a year.
The state Lottery Commission believes that joining Mega Millions, which generated a record jackpot of $363 million in 2002, will provide an economic boost for the state by luring more people into playing the lottery, generating more revenue, 34 percent of which goes to state schools.
But state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Bakersfield, chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, questions whether the commission has the authority to decide to join Mega Millions later this year. He has asked the Legislature's attorney for an opinion on the matter.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's lottery troubleshooter Chon Gutierrez, a former lottery director, believes that his commission clearly has the authority to make the decision to join Mega Millions and is moving ahead.
Florez argues that lottery sales have gone down in some states after joining Mega Millions. It's also expected that the bigger Mega Millions jackpots will take money away from SuperLotto, even though the odds of winning are better in the state game.
Joining Mega Millions is a bigger decision than jiggering the existing state lottery or changing existing games to make them more attractive to consumers.
It has become obvious that something has to be done to reinvigorate the state lottery.
The California Lottery was approved by voters in 1984 to generate extra money for public education.
Lottery officials believe that the only way to jump-start interest is to join Mega Millions. Despite the larger jackpots that come from joining with other state lotteries, the odds of winning go down. Not that your odds are that good at 1 in 41 million under California's SuperLotto Plus. With Mega Millions the odds are a staggering 1 in 135 million.
The legislative counsel has agreed to render an opinion, but wants to keep it confidential. Bad idea. Whatever the counsel decides should be made public, so we can all understand what it says and what recommendations it makes.
As an elected official, Florez should push for transparency here. He should release the counsel's recommendation not keep it secret.
Should the decision to join the high-stakes Mega Millions be made by the state Legislature or California Lottery Commission? Whichever way it is decided, the public must be in the loop.