The $330 million jackpot in tonight’s multi-state Mega Millions draw, the second-largest since California joined the game in June 2005, can cause problems for recovering gamblers, an expert said.
“Intensive media coverage of big jackpots can put additional pressure on struggling gamblers to keep gambling and recovering gamblers to start gambling again,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Recovering gamblers tempted to buy tickets can call the toll-free 24-hour California Problem Gambling Help Line at 1-800-Gambler to seek assistance from a counselor with a master’s degree or doctorate, said Marc Lefkowitz, executive vice president of the California Council on Problem Gambling.
In an effort to deter problem gambling, the California Lottery prints the help line number on its tickets, play slips, brochures and much of its advertising, according to Olga Gallardo, the lottery’s deputy assistant director of corporate communications.
The lottery also has a link to the Web site of the state’s Office of Problem Gambling on its Web site.
“The California Lottery is very helpful and understands problem gambling,” said Lefkowitz, who went on to praise the lottery for its support of the help line.
The odds of matching all five numbers and the Mega number is 1 in 175,711,536, according to the Mega Millions Web site.
Tickets will be sold until 7:45 p.m. The drawing will be held just before 8 p.m.
No tickets with all six numbers have been sold since the July 6 drawing. Tonight’s drawing is the 16th since then.
The biggest Mega Millions jackpot since California joined the game was $390 million for the March 6 draw, which was also the largest of any lottery in the world and was one by two ticket holders, one in Georgia and the other in New Jersey. Tonight’s jackpot is the sixth largest overall.
There’s no real way players can increase their chances of winning, USC mathematics professor Ken Alexander said.
Buying tickets at a store where winning tickets have been sold in the past won’t help.
“Wins in the past don’t have any effect,” Alexander said in a 2006 interview. “The chance that a given place will sell a winning lottery ticket is just related to how many tickets they sell.”
However, players wanting a better chance of avoiding sharing the jackpot should choose numbers that aren’t selected as often, Alexander said. Lottery players frequently choose the date of their birthdays as one of their numbers, so numbers higher than 31 would be played less, he said.
Under state law, the California Lottery contributes at least 34 cents of every dollar players spend on lottery tickets to public education. More than 50 percent of sales are returned to players in prize money, according to California Lottery officials.
Besides California, the Mega Millions game is played in Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.