Betting Big, a Lottery Flirts With the 'B' Word

Could half a billion dollars become the new benchmark for lottery winnings?

It is hard to imagine, but $315 million could soon be considered a small payout. In 2002, Andrew Whittaker won that record amount in a Powerball drawing in West Virginia. But a proposed world lottery could dwarf such previous lottery winnings and create dozens of new millionaires every month.

The proposed world lottery by Camelot, the licensed operator of the U.K. National Lottery, would pay out a maximum of £250 million in a yearly drawing. That is approximately $486 million. The monthly game could mint up to 100 brand-new millionaires worldwide every drawing.

Camelot officials have been in contact with lottery operators from Asia, Europe and 48 American states, all of whom have expressed interest in cooperating on a world lottery.

New York state's lottery officials are enthusiastic, too.

"A world lottery concept would provide even more opportunities for our players to win -- and win big," said New York lottery's spokeswoman Susan Miller. "The New York lottery is committed to answering the call of our players for new and fun games with more opportunities to win even larger prizes."

Camelot already runs a lottery that spans time zones, currencies and languages. Called EuroMillions, it is the largest lottery in the world, played in France, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal. Camelot's spokesperson says EuroMillions would would provide a model for a worldwide game.

But before Camelot can build a world lottery, it must renew its license to conduct lotteries in the United Kingdom, which expires in 2009. Camelot has one competitor for that license. The winner will be announced this summer.