Powerball offers a few winnerswith losers

Scott McFetridge
Associated Press

Des Moines, Iowa – — When the largest-ever lottery prize is finally awarded, the winners and losers will extend well beyond the lucky few who hit the jackpot and the multitudes of disappointed ticket buyers. Here’s a breakdown of how Powerball affects the players, the public and others.

■Winner: Government programs

The biggest Powerball winner is actually state government in the jurisdictions that participate. That’s 44 states, including Michigan, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Each jurisdiction spends the money raised through the lottery differently, with the rules determined by state Legislatures. In some states, the money goes directly to education or college scholarships. Elsewhere, it might fund transportation. Some states send it to their general fund, where lawmakers decide how to use it.

■Winner: Convenience store owners

Owners of convenience stores and other ticket-selling locations earn a small percentage of each sale, but more important, people often buy something extra when they stop for Powerball tickets.

■Winner: The winners of smaller prizes

Lottery officials often note that while the jackpot gets all the attention, far more players get a nice consolation prize of $1 million for matching the five white balls but missing the Powerball. And if they pay an extra dollar when they buy their ticket, that prize can double to $2 million.

■Winner: The actual winners

There hasn’t been a winner since early November, and that’s why the jackpot has grown so large, from an initial $40 million to $1.5 billion on Wednesday. As more people play Powerball, the chances for a winner improve.

■Loser: Problem gamblers

In the past week, calls to the Washington-based National Council on Problem Gambling’s help line have soared, largely because of interest in the Powerball jackpot, Executive Director Keith Whyte said.

The council suddenly has so much attention that its website crashed earlier in the week from all the extra traffic. Whyte said the surge in interest in Powerball is especially difficult on people who have managed to stop gambling but now find their friends and co-workers talking about the big prize.

■Loser: Statisticians

Pity those who study statistics and other forms of math, as so many people across the country dream of a prize against all odds.

The odds of 1 in 292.2 million are even worse than the 1 in 175 million odds that were in place until last fall, when the Powerball system was changed to build bigger jackpots.