California, the Golden State, will bring a lot of green to the Mega Millions Lottery jackpots when the state joins the multistate game next month. That's green as in greenbacks.
Mega Millions Lottery officials expect jackpots, under the right circumstances, to reach a staggering half of a billion dollars, said Michigan Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters.
"With California in, the computer model says there is a high probability of a $500 million Mega Millions jackpot," Peters said. The largest Mega Millions jackpot was $362 million in May 2000. Shelby Township swimming pool cleaner Larry Ross won half of the pot, $181 million.
California will become the 12th state to join Mega Millions on June 22, with the first drawing under the new alignment on June 24.
California's population of 35 million is one reason for the projected mammoth jackpots. Adding four more numbers, from 52 to 56 to the main field, is another reason. That will increase the odds of hitting the jackpot from one in 135 million to one in 178 million, Peters said.
"That means jackpots will grow bigger and faster," Peters said. "We will see more $200 million jackpots like the $208 million jackpot (won by a Michigan couple) we just had."
Mount Clemens business broker Chris Kelly of Utica doesn't like the new arrangement.
"That's insane," said Kelley, a regular lottery player. "It's getting out of hand. Only one person will win the big jackpot like that. They should divide up the big jackpots."
Even the consolation prizes will hit mega proportions under the new format, Peters said. Second-place money will be increased from $175,000 to $250,000 and third-prize money from $5,000 to $10,000.
Clinton Township used car dealer Bob Bartolomucci likes the bigger secondary prizes.
"That's the only reason I play Mega Millions -- to win the second-place money," he said.