California has a long history of gambling, dating back to the very foundation of the Golden State and the gold rush of the 19th century.
However, when you consider gambling legislation and regulation, things are somewhat different: According to the California State Constitution, Article IV, only tribal casinos, player-banked card rooms, bingo, horse race wagering and the state lottery are legal.
The California State Lottery was established in 1984, in accordance with the California State Lottery Act. The act also created the Lottery Commission — a regulatory body in charge of overseeing the lottery, distributing the proceeds and other related duties. For example, the commission will make sure only people who are 18 or older participate in games. The lottery’s mission is to provide supplemental funding to California public schools. In fact, over the past 37 years, it has distributed more than $37 billion to these schools, which are the lottery’s only beneficiaries.
The California State Lottery is a member of the World Lottery Association. It is home to several multi-state lottery draw games, such as Powerball and Mega Millions, as well as numerous state games. This page covers the California Lottery’s various games, along with instructions on how to play and claim prizes
Purchasing lottery tickets online in California
California online lottery
When it comes to the digital aspect of the California State Lottery, it does not let you purchase tickets online, via phone or by email. The lottery does, however, provide some digital tools. It does this with its official and proprietary apps for Android and iOS devices. In these apps, you can use a variety of functions and tools to improve your lottery experience.
The Check-a-Ticket feature lets you see if you’ve won any draws or daily games. Through its push notifications, the California lottery app can remind you when draws are going to take place. You will also have a chance to check if there are any promotions and bonuses at play, where you can find a registered retailer and other details.
What’s more, app users can participate in second-chance drawings, using codes from non-winning scratch cards. These drawings can have prizes worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Note that only verified accounts can take part in the second-chance draws. To verify your account, you will need to submit your full legal name, a valid California street address and your date of birth.
Although the apps offer a lot of exciting features, they still won’t let you buy lottery tickets online.
What lottery games can I play in California?
The California State Lottery offers one of the most diverse game catalogs on the West Coast, with multi-state lottery draws such as Powerball, Mega Millions and SuperLotto Plus, as well as some locally popular draws such as Hot Spot and Daily Derby. You’ll also find over 50 scratchers, some with prizes topping out at $10 million.
Multi-state draws like Powerball and Mega Millions count among the most popular games, thanks to their prize potential and the fact that they have been kind to Californians in the past. Still, residents of the Golden State will have an opportunity to win big from a variety of other games, too.
California Lottery multi-state draw games
California players first participated in Mega Millions in 2005, a year after then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested such a move. Then, in 2013, Powerball became available to Californians, who have since managed to win the jackpot on more than one occasion.
On April 8, 2013, California sold its first-ever Powerball ticket. Three years later, the Acosta family won the biggest Powerball jackpot in state history. The prize was about $533 million before taxes, out of an original jackpot of $1.586 billion. Since two other tickets won, the prize split three ways.
Each Powerball ticket has five numbers between 1 and 69 and one Powerball number between 1 and 26. You’ll have the option to use the quick pick tool, which randomly generates the numbers for you. If you want to play with the same numbers for up to 10 consecutive draws, then you should tick the advance play box.
Each Powerball ticket costs $2. In the past, the starting jackpot was $40 million, with minimum increases of $10 million. Due to COVID-19 uncertainty, however, that is no longer the case, with those numbers at least temporarily being determined solely by ticket sales.
California Powerball key points
- The ticket price is $2.
- To win the grand jackpot, all six numbers must be correct.
- The biggest payout in California was $533 million, and the second largest was $213 million.
California Mega Millions
Mega Millions, one of the country’s biggest lotteries, has been more than kind to Californians. The state sold its first Mega Millions ticket in 2005, and since then, residents of the Golden State have won the jackpot over 30 times.
The biggest Mega Millions jackpot that someone from California has claimed is $522 million, by Laarni Bibal from San Diego in 2019. In 2018, a nationwide Mega Millions record jackpot of $1.537 billion went to a South Carolina player.
Mega Millions plays in a similar fashion to Powerball. You can purchase a ticket at any lottery retailer in California. It will have five numbers between 1 and 70 and a Mega number between 1 and 25. The quick pick option is available for this game, as well, and so is advance play. Tickets cost $2 each. As of April 2020, Mega Millions will determine its minimum jackpots from drawing to drawing.
California Mega Millions key points
- The ticket price for each draw is $2.
- Californians have won the Mega Millions jackpot on 30 occasions.
- The biggest ever jackpot in the state was $522 million.
California multi-state draw times
Mega Millions draws are Tuesdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. You can buy your tickets until 7:45 p.m. on the day of the draw. Powerball draws are Wednesdays and Saturdays at 7:59 p.m., and you can purchase your ticket an hour before the draw at the latest.
California state draw games
California also offers its own lottery games. Here are the top draws from the state:
- California SuperLotto Plus — California SuperLotto Plus was the first Californian Lottery game to offer jackpots worth millions of dollars. The record jackpot is $141 million, which went to a retired grocery store clerk from San Jose. The gameplay is simple. Tickets have five numbers between 1 and 47 and one Mega number between 1 and 27. The quick pick and advance play options are also there. In fact, thanks to advance play, you can play up to 16 or 20 consecutive draws. Tickets cost $1, and the minimum jackpot is $7 million. Draws take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and entries close at 7:45 p.m.
- Fantasy 5 — In Fantasy 5, you choose five numbers between 1 and 39. If all your selections are correct, you will be looking at a guaranteed jackpot of between $60,000 and $80,000. Multiple winners will split the jackpot equally. The draws take place daily, after 6:30 p.m., when the draw entry closes.
- Daily 3 — You pick three numbers between 0 and 9, and then choose from among different play styles. Tickets cost $1. Here are the play styles:
- Straight — Match the winning numbers in the same order as they appear.
- Box — You can match the winning numbers in any order.
- Straight/box — If you match the winning numbers in the exact order, you win half the straight prize and half the box prize. If you match the numbers in any order, you will get half the box prize.
- Daily 4 — Daily 4 is similar to Daily 3 but with four numbers. The price of the ticket is the same, and so are the play styles and betting options (straight, box and straight/box).
- Daily Derby — Instead of picking the numbers, you select three horses to finish first, second and third in a race. Then, you pick the amount of time it will take the first horse to reach the finish line. The RNG-operated Automated Draw Machine draws the winning horses and the race times. The draws take place daily, and tickets cost $2.
- Hot Spot — In Hot Spot, a game similar to keno, you choose one to 10 spots on the lottery slip. You will also have to pick the numbers between 1 and 80 that will correspond to these spots. If you select 10 spots, then you will have to have 10 numbers. The more numbers you choose and the more of them get drawn, the bigger the prize will be. The cost of play is $1 to $5, $10 or $20 per selection, and a new draw takes place every four minutes. For an extra $2, you can add the bulls-eye bet and increase your chances of winning.
California scratch cards
Lottery scratch cards, or scratchers, are widespread in California, with over 50 scratchers you can choose from. They offer jackpots from several hundred dollars up to tens of millions, and you can buy them from licensed retailers. If you win up to $599, you can receive your money immediately. For larger prizes, you need to contact the lottery.
California lottery scratcher prices range between $1 and $30, and the more expensive ones, such as 200x, Ultimate Millions and $400 Million Money Mania, have grand jackpots worth $10 million. Other famous scratch cards are those from the Monopoly series. These can offer up to $1 million in prizes.
Other gambling options in California
First of all, the state has card rooms that host poker, pai gow and other games where players square off against one another. They take turns as bankers, so you won’t be playing against the house but against an actual player.
Next up are the tribal casinos, which offer slots, blackjack, poker, bingo and other games. There are no commercial casinos in California.
Pari-mutuel betting on horse racing is also legal, but sportsbooks are not. The state has seen attempts to legalize sports wagering in California, but none have succeeded so far. The same applies to online casinos in California and Californian online poker, which currently remain out of reach for Californians.
California State Lottery history
The state passed Proposition 37 (also known as the California State Lottery Act) in 1984, creating the California State Lottery. Soon after the legislation passed, the state established the Lottery Commission, which organized the first draws.
Over the years, the California State Lottery has introduced Powerball, Mega Millions and a variety of other games.
In addition, it has become a member of the World Lottery Association and received its Certificate of Accreditation for meeting all the criteria for a Level 4 Certificate of the WLA Responsible Gaming Framework.
The lottery provides funding for the public school system in the state, with 95 cents of each dollar you spend going back to the community and the schooling system. The lottery has paid over $37 billion so far. For instance, in the 2018-19 fiscal year alone, it provided more than $1.8 billion, which accounted for about 1% of the state’s annual budget for public schools.
The lottery distributes funds based on average daily attendance information: K-12th grade schools get 80% of the funding, community colleges receive 13.9%, the California State University system gets 3.7%, and the University of California receives 2.3%. Other education projects get 0.1%.