Well before the largest jackpot in U.S. history had Californians queuing for a chance at Powerball riches, the state’s 30-year-old lottery had fully recovered from a recessionary dip in sales.
The lottery sold $5.5 billion in tickets during the fiscal year that ended last June, almost double the sales total during the Great Recession trough of 2008-09, when lottery sales dropped to $2.95 billion. Officials expect that sales growth to continue: Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget proposal projects that ticket sales will hit $6 billion through June.
Prize payouts have surged as well since the recession, more than doubling from about $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion. The lottery had stepped up its advertising during that time, from about $42 million to $62 million in 2014-15.
A portion of all lottery ticket sales also goes to education. From when the first Scratcher lottery ticket was sold in October 1985, through June 2014, the lottery has contributed about $28 billion to schools, out of almost $80 billion in tickets sold.
Yet notwithstanding its “Our Schools Win, Too” marketing pitch over the years, lottery funding represents just a sliver of the state’s overall education budget.
In the current budget year, K-12 schools will receive an estimated $72 billion from the general fund and other sources, including the lottery. The lottery’s $1.15 billion share represents about 1.59 percent of the overall schools budget through June 2016.