Mega Millions comes early to Washington State
By Paul
The Washington State Lottery, hoping that a lottery will help ease the state's fiscal problems, will roll out its new multi-state lottery game soon after Labor Day, four weeks ahead of schedule.

Tickets for Mega Millions, a 10-state lottery game, will go on sale at 2,600 retail outlets across Washington on September 4th. The first jackpot drawing will be September 6th, and the jackpot could be huge even by Mega Millions standards.

Washington had planned the launch for October, but is pushing the launch date forward in order to generate more cash.

Most of the state's profit from the new game is earmarked for the state general fund, which pays for schools, higher education, prisons, health care and other services.

State lawmakers, prompted by the Governor, voted earlier this year to join the new game, hoping to generate about $32 million a year to shore up a billion dollar budget deficit. The state is now preparing for a shortfall of up to $2 billion for the 2003-05 budget cycle.

State budget writers hope the early start will bring in an additional $2.5 million to $3 million. The first drawing originally was planned for October 1st.

A large opening day jackpot could jump-start that sales, said lottery spokesman D. Eric Jones. This week's jackpot is $78 million, and if there is no grand-prize winner over the next couple of weeks, that jackpot could rise to between $150 million to $170 million, Jones said.

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