If you buy a ticket for tonight's Washington Lotto Plus drawing, you have a chance to win a record $46 million jackpot.
In a few more days, your odds of winning will get a bit better.
That's because the Washington Lottery Commission is reverting to the old Lotto game after Saturday night's drawing for Lotto Plus. The odds of winning the Lotto jackpot will be 1 in 7 million instead of the 1 in 11 million odds for Lotto Plus.
That's one reason lottery officials are bringing back Lotto after a 17-month experiment with Lotto Plus.
Under Lotto Plus, players need to pick five correct numbers from a field of 49 - plus the correct "Gold" ball - to win the jackpot. Those higher odds accomplished part of what they were supposed to do: produce fewer winners so the size of the jackpot would grow - and keep growing.
No one has won the Lotto Plus jackpot since April. But ticket sales also dropped, especially after Washington joined nine other states in the Mega Millions game less than six months later. Mega Millions has consistently higher jackpots, largely because the odds of winning are 1 in 135 million.
But with two similar games, the combination of sales was less than it had been for just the Lotto Plus game. And that meant less revenue for the state and the programs it pays for.
"There's not a big difference in their (players') minds between Lotto and Mega Millions," said Kathy Kreiter, interim lottery director.
A slumping economy, layoffs and less discretionary spending also played into declining lottery sales, she said.
Lawmakers expect a lot from the state-run lottery games. Last year, the state lottery had enough of a profit to pay the state's $3.8 million share of the Seattle Mariners' ballpark, $7 million for the Seahawks' football stadium and $87 million toward public schools and colleges.
But state budget-writers wanted $102 million for education funds, plus $30 million more for the state's general fund. They fell short, and projections for the next two years don't look good, either.
That doesn't bode well for some state lawmakers who are looking to further expand other forms of gambling to raise more money for the state. Earlier this year, a coalition of non-Indian gambling interests told lawmakers they could raise as much as $200 million a year if the Legislature would expand gambling.
"I think some of my colleagues were sold a bill of goods - that there was vast wealth lying out there just waiting for the state to pick it up," said state Sen. Margarita Prentice (D-Seattle), a nonvoting member of the state Gambling Commission. "The Lotto and Mega Millions experience has shown us we've actually reached the saturation point."
Prentice is one of four legislators on a task force investigating whether more gambling will bring more money to the state. That group, which has yet to hold its first meeting, is supposed to make a report to the full Legislature by Jan. 5.
"It will be hard to get a report done by Jan. 5," said Rep. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia), another member of the task force. "(But) we need more revenue, and if this is the one way we're going to get it, then I'd like to look at it."
Hunt said he'd like to see some money to restore some of the cuts the Legislature made to health care and money to thaw the freeze on pay raises for most state and public school workers.
Lottery and gambling commission employees were assigned the task of helping the task force.
Kreiter said she hopes the reborn Lotto game will be more profitable for the state. For one, the jackpot won't automatically increase by $1 million each time there is no winner. Instead, the jackpot will be based on how many tickets are sold.
With Lotto Plus, the state - through retail outlets - would sell less than $500,000 in tickets for a game, but then increase the jackpot by $1 million. Only recently have ticket sales increased to about $4 million a week, she said.
If no one wins tonight's Lotto Plus jackpot or the final Lotto Plus drawing on Saturday, then the jackpot for the new Lotto game on Oct. 8 will be $48 million.
The new Lotto game also will be better for retailers. The retailer that sells the winning Lotto ticket for future games will get 1 percent of the jackpot. That applies to the Quinto jackpot, too, Kreiter said.
Tickets for the new Lotto game go on sale Sunday for the drawing on Oct. 8.
Kreiter said lottery officials haven't talked about getting out of the Mega Millions game yet. Texas is expected to join the 10 other states this fall, and Washington state officials want to see what happens to ticket sales and jackpots after that populous state joins the pack, she said.