Lottery officials, reveling in a master plan to goose jackpots, just announced that the next Powerball jackpot will be at least $500 million — and with more than 24 hours to go before the drawing, it could go even higher than that. That may not be enough time to reach the $640 million record set by the Mega Millions game back in March, but with two super-duper national jackpots in less than one year, it's clear that their strategy to up revenue for lottery-happy states is working.
Back in January, the Powerball doubled its minimum bet to $2, promising that the increased price would lead to fatter jackpots in less time. Ticket sales dipped briefly, but the AP reports that sales revenue has indeed gone up by more than 35 percent this year. That, combined with a 2010 decision to let Mega Millions and Powerball games exist in the same states (there are 42 of them now), has led to bigger and better prizes for both games. Wednesday's total will be the second-largest in U.S. history.
The fact that three-quarters of a million dollars was added to the estimated jackpot since Sunday shows just how effective that vicious cycle of lottery mania is. The bigger the jackpot, the more interest there is in the game, which means more tickets sales, which means a bigger jackpot, and so on. Just remember, you can't beat the system, but you also can't beat the 175 million-to-1 odds unless you buy a ticket.