$550M Powerball lottery fever grips nation, but remember sales help fund Washington college scholarships
I bet a lot of us are dreaming and scheming right now.
What would you do with $550 million? I can think of a lot of things I'd spend that money on, but I won't get carried away. The chances of winning are so slim.
Gambling isn't something I would encourage most people to do. I've seen too many scary stories of winners going broke and behaving badly.
We usually picture lottery winners standing behind a giant check, right? Well, I think we should remind ourselves that the benefits are more widespread than those awkward press conferences let on.
I called Washington's Lottery this morning. Communication Director Arlen Harris says that sales of Powerball tickets seem to skyrocket when the jackpot surpasses $200 million.
"We love it.The more we sell, the more the state benefits," Harris said. "Whatever is earned at the end of the fiscal year is paid to beneficiaries. In Washington, we're mostly talking about college students."
Half the money from Powerball sales in Washington go to prizes. The other half goes into a much larger pool that pays for the Lottery's administrative costs and its beneficiaries, including the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account.
Created by the Legislature in 2010, the Washington Opportunity Pathways Account is dedicated to scholarships, state financial aid programs, and early childhood learning causes. About 20,000 students received assistance in 2011. Last June, Harris says the Lottery contributed another $121.8 million to the fund.
The state also uses lottery sales to prevent "problem gambling" and to pay down other public debts, such as CenturyLink Field.
Last year, Harris reports Powerball sales reached $42 million for the year. Between Monday and Wednesday's drawing, he estimates lottery vendors will sell about $6 million worth of tickets.
So if there's a winner in tonight's drawing and it isn't you, take heart in knowing that one lucky ticket holder's $550 million windfall could still be advantageous for many others in Washington.
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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