AUSTIN — Powerball tickets could be sold in Texas as soon as Jan. 31 following a vote Wednesday by the Texas Lottery Commission, which anticipates collecting millions of dollars more from players lured by the chance at another high-dollar jackpot.
“What the Legislature has charged us to do is to raise revenue, and this is going to increase the amount that we can send to the education fund by $35 million,” Commissioner J. Winston Krause said after the panel unanimously approved a rule to allow the game in Texas. “That’s good for the schoolchildren of Texas, and it gives additional entertainment options for the public.”
The lottery contributed $1 billion to the Foundation School Fund, which helps fund public schools in Texas, in fiscal 2009, according to the commission.
Lottery watchdog Dawn Nettles, however, bemoaned the addition of the game.
“I think it’s awful, simply because it’s a game that people … most likely will not win, and they will be throwing away more money chasing a dream that won’t come true,” said Nettles, who owns the Lotto Report Web site.
Texas already is part of the Mega Millions multi-state game, and officials long have talked about adding Powerball.
The two multi-jurisdictional games agreed last year to allow states to participate in both. Previously, states had to choose between them.
1st drawing Feb. 3
Under Wednesday’s action, Powerball can start in Texas after a game agreement with the Multi-State Lottery Association is finalized and signed. That could allow tickets to be sold here as soon as Jan. 31, lottery spokesman Bobby Heith said. The first Powerball drawing for Texas players would be Feb. 3.
The largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million. The largest advertised jackpot for Powerball has been $365 million.
Powerball’s advertised jackpots are not guaranteed, lottery officials have noted. For example, if Powerball advertises a $150 million jackpot and ticket sales support only a smaller amount, the winner gets what ticket sales generate.
Odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 195,249,054, and the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 175,711,536, according to a November lottery staff presentation.
The commission received about 163 written comments in favor of adding Powerball and 27 that were opposed or neutral, according to commission staff.
Negative comments ranged from concern about the effect another game would have on gambling addicts to the “astronomical odds” against winning to this from an educator: “As a teacher for over 30 years, I have yet to see any giant bonuses from the lottery so I would vote NO.”
Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Williamson said adding Powerball makes sense to ensure Texas does not lose an edge to other states.
“I think, basically, the country’s headed toward a national game,” Williamson said. “It would be foolish for Texas not to be involved in both games to have a seat at the table if it progresses to that.”