The world's largest jackpot also brings good news to California's struggling schools. The record Mega Millions jackpot brought out regular lottery players who bought more tickets than usual. Some bought seconds and thirds thinking they had figured out a different way to pick winning numbers, like spelling "Lotto" with their quick picks. Mega Millions fever even lured novices who needed instructions on how to play.
All of that combined is racking up sales in California. Just the lunch hour alone saw 5 million tickets sold statewide. While players are dreaming about what they can do with the money if they win, so are schools. For every dollar consumers spend on a ticket, 32 cents go California's financially-strapped public schools. If estimates hold up, they could get more than $100 million just from this jackpot alone. "With this current Mega Millions run, we're going to be pretty close to our all-time high as far as what we've given schools in any given year," said Alex Traverso with California Lottery.
While $100 million doesn't even come close to making up for the multi-billion dollar cuts to education during the Great Recession, the extra money could save 1,000 teacher jobs. "Even though it adds to about $16 per student, when you take a $100 million and figure out what that buys, 1,000 teachers is important," said public schools finance consultant Kevin Gordon.
Most people playing Mega Millions, though, weren't thinking about what their dollar does for schools. "We're going to quit our jobs. It's going to be a good time," Esmeralda Telez said. Although, they are happy about the side benefit. "I have two daughters in elementary school and I pay for a lot of supplies and we donate a lot of Kleenex boxes, glue sticks. So, that would help tremendously," Telez said.
Just after 5 p.m. Friday, California Lotto officials reported sales of $42 million, a California Lottery sales record for one day. They added that they were on track to hit $60 million in sales by the time of the drawing.