California State Lottery History, Game Information and Other Tidbits

As I sit here tonight tossing out yet another Mega Millions ticket with losing numbers, my mind wanders and I start thinking about just what this California State Lottery is, its history, who benefits and more. So for those of you looking for information about the Lottery, read on!


The Lottery was created by a 1984 California ballot initiative approved by 58% of the voters. Ticket sales began on October 3, 1985, with the first Scratchers® ticket game “California Jackpot.”

Draw Game sales began on October 14, 1986, with Lotto 6/49®. Daily draw games were introduced in March 1990. The Lottery currently offers seven draw games. Players have 180 days from the date of the drawing to claim prizes, except for the Mega Millions jackpot prize which is one year. Retailers pay prizes up to $599 while prizes over $599 are paid directly by the Lottery.

By law, the Lottery is required to return not less than 87% of revenues to the public in the form of prizes and education contributions, and must spend no more than 13% of revenues on operating expenses.

The Games

Scratchers® - Instant ticket games that are played by scratching the latex covering off a play area and learning “instantly” whether the ticket is a winner. (My kids love these.)

SuperLOTTO Plus® – Players select five numbers from 1 to 47 and one mega number from 1 to 27. There are nine prize categories. To win the jackpot, players must match all five lotto numbers plus the mega number. Jackpot prizes start at $7 million and have reached more than $190 million. Winning numbers are drawn every Wednesday and Saturday at 7:57 p.m. PST.

MEGA Millions® – Players select five lotto numbers from 1 to 56 and one mega number from 1 to 46. There are nine prize categories. To win the jackpot, match all five lotto numbers plus the mega number. Jackpot prizes start at $12 million and have reached as high as $390 million. Winning numbers are drawn in Atlanta, Georgia every Tuesday and Friday at 8:00 p.m. PST (you can buy tickets until 7:45 p.m.). MEGA Millions is one of the largest multi-state lottery games in North America, currently played in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

Hot Spot® – Players select numbers from 1 to 80 and have a choice of playing ten different “spots” ranging from 1 to 10. There are 58 prize categories in this game. Draws are conducted daily every four minutes with the first draw at 6:04 a.m. and last draw at 2:00 a.m. Twenty winning numbers are selected for each draw.

Daily 3 – Players select a set of three numbers from 0 to 9, and a play/style where players try to match the three numbers drawn in the exact order or in any order. Based on the selected play/style (straight, box, or straight/box), there are many ways to win a prize. Top prizes average $500. Winning numbers are drawn twice a day.

Daily 4 - Similar to Daily 3 but with four numbers. The top prize averages $5,000. Winning numbers are drawn once a day.

Fantasy 5 – In this daily lotto game, players select five numbers from 1 to 39. Win by matching any two, three, four, or all five of the five numbers drawn. There are four prize categories. Top prizes start at $50,000 and have reached more than $700,000 for matching all five numbers.

Daily Derby® – Select three “horses” from a field of 12 and a “race time” which is a set of three numbers (e.g. 0, 1, and 9) with each number selected from a field of 0 through 9. There are five prize categories. Top prizes start at $50,000 and have reached over $1 million for matching the race time and all three horses in exact order.

Raffle - Win prizes by matching raffle numbers to the winning numbers draw by the Lottery. Raffle games are offered for a limited time and the prize structure for each Raffle game may vary. The top prize for raffle games offered to date has been $1 million.

Other Facts

From 1985 through the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011, the Lottery has generated $65.8 billion in sales and contributed over $24.0 billion to schools. Retailers who sell lottery tickets have received over $4.3 billion. And $34.1 billion has been won by Lottery winners.

In fiscal year 2011, the Lottery generated $1.13 billion for California schools, marking the 11th straight year of generating at least $1 billion in school funding.

There was a total of $3.4 billion in Lottery sales in 2011, up 13% from the prior year, including $2 billion in Scratchers games, $973 million in Lotto games and the remander in Daily/Hot Spot games.

According to a California State Lottery financial report, while California has the largest state population, at $3.4 billion in sales it does not have the largest lottery. State lotteries larger than California include New York, ($6.8 billion in 2011 sales), Massachusetts ($4.4 billion), Florida ($4 billion), Texas ($3.8 billion) and Georgia ($3.6 billion).

Over the last 10 years, an average of $30 million per year in prizes have gone unclaimed! OUCH! But the good news is that unclaimed prizes go towards California education funding.

Lottery prizes are exempt from California and local income taxes but no suck luck with Federal taxes. The Lottery is required to withhold 25% but your actual taxes will vary.

Over 20,000 retailers around the state sell Lottery tickets. The CA Lottery website has a list of "Lucky Retailers" that have had 2 or more winners of at least $1 million. As of March 2012, 6 retailers have sold 3 or more $1 million winners, including 1 in Ventura County (7 Eleven at 2201 E. Channel Islands Blvd in Oxnard), 3 in L.A. County, 1 in Sacramento County and 1 in Alameda County (this one has sold 4 $1 million tickets).

Search for a retailer at

To learn more about the Lottery, visit or call 1-800-LOTTERY.

If you have a "gambling problem," try the Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

If you win and need help unloading some of your excess cash flow, consider sharing some of your stash with Conejo Valley Guide, the most comprehensive website of things to do throughout Ventura County ever known to mankind. :>