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You can now waste your money on Powerball

As of this week, Powerball tickets are now available in Texas. In case you’re tempted to buy one, here’s how good your chances are of winning.

The odds for hitting the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 195,249,054. That’s right, 195 million and change.

Which makes the chances for winning it all in Mega Millions (1 in 175,711,538) or Lotto Texas (1 in 25,827,165) almost look good.

Winning Powerball is like winning Lotto Texas, and then having to roll an eight at the craps table before you could collect.

The odds are only 1 in 750,000 of being struck by lightning in any given year, according to the National Weather Service.

And according to the National Safety Council, over one year, the odds for dying through contact with venomous spiders were 1 in 74,590,743 in 2006. In that same scary year, the odds were 1 in 9,323,843 of dying by being bitten or struck by a dog.

And you might want to rethink that sugary snack at work. The Book of Odds pegs the chance of a person dying from a vending machine accident in a year at 1 in 112 million.

Are we feeling lucky yet?

Here comes Powerball

Powerball will come to Texas as soon as January 31 after a unanimous vote approving sales of its tickets by the Texas Lottery Commission.

“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.

Nettles expressed those same reservations back in November when the Commission gave initial approval to Powerball. As I said at the time, I think it’s more likely to cannibalize existing Lotto sales than to bring in a lot of new revenue, though the novelty factor may give it a boost at first. But we’ll see. I know I don’t ever expect to buy a Powerball ticket, but are any of you salivating to do so? Leave a comment and let me know.

Texas to get Powerball

The Texas Lottery Commission is fixing to bring Powerball to Texas.

The commission unanimously voted to publish rules for the game for public comment. If the panel gives final approval to the rules early next year, the first Powerball ticket could be sold in Texas on Jan. 31.

Texas already is part of the Mega Millions multi-jurisdiction lottery game, and officials for years have discussed the idea of adding Powerball to the mix.

The two big games just recently reached an agreement to allow states to participate in both. Previously, states had to pick one or the other.

It was back in 2003 that the TLC approved Mega Millions, after being given the authority to join multi-state games by the Lege. Looking back through my archives, I don’t see why they demurred on Powerball at the time. It may be because its jackpots are not guaranteed as advertised and can be reduced if ticket sales do not reach the needed levels. That’s kind of a sore spot at the Lottery Commission.

One objection that was raised at the time and is being raised again is that Powerball will not bring in the millions of extra revenue that the TLC is projecting.

Lottery watchdog Dawn Nettles, who operates the Lotto Report Web site, predicted, “It’s going to kill (the state jackpot game) Lotto Texas.”

“They’re not going to get more money out of the players, because the people don’t have it to give,” Nettles said. “All they’re going to do is divide their money amongst the games.”

Rob Kohler, a consultant for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, said his group is most concerned about instant-win scratch tickets because they are impulse purchases.

He said that as a jackpot game, Powerball is “pretty benign.” He added, however, “We don’t think it will solve any of the budget problems or add any more money to the state.”

I think that at first, when Powerball is shiny and new, it will spur an increase in lottery revenues. Going forward, its ridiculously large jackpots may draw in more casual players. But I think Nettles has a point – I think a lot of Powerball’s sales will come from Texas Lotto players who have shifted their purchases from one game to the other. At the very least, I hope the TLC tried to include that likelihood in its models. Anyway, for those of you looking for the chance to throw away a few bucks on a one-in-147,000,000 chance, you’ll get it starting next January. We’ll see how much revenue for the state it really does generate.