By Elizabeth Cook

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The California Lottery is once again selling tickets like hot cakes. If you think more folks are winning, it’s not your imagination.

Merces Goncalves of San Jose recently played the lottery, using a set of numbers found inside a fortune cookie.

Goncalves matched 5 out of 6 numbers, everything but the “Mega.” She split the prize with two other winners, and brought home a check for more than $400,000.

“It’s a blessing. I feel blessed. I don’t feel rich but I feel blessed,” Goncalves told KPIX 5.

After years of losing revenue, the California Lottery is once again booming and selling tickets at a brisk pace.

“There was a change of policy in the lottery a few years ago,” said Stanford economist Roger Noll.

In 2010, state lawmakers tweaked the law to stoke lottery sales. The result: bigger, faster growing jackpots and better odds at winning any smaller prize.

“The second thing they’ve done is they’ve increased the marketing of it,” commented Noll. “It’s much easier to buy lottery tickets now than it used to be.”

The downside:  New changes make it dramatically tougher to win the big prize.

Does Noll play? “I do not. And it’s because I’m too much of an economist. I never can get past the odds,” he said.

As for Goncalves, she’s taking her husband Alvaro to Maui in the fall, for their very first honeymoon after 52 years of marriage.

She also used her interview with KPIX 5 to surprise her daughter and son-in-law with her plans for the rest of her winnings.

“You are the first person I’m sharing this wish they don’t know. They are going be surprised but I bet they are going to be very happy,” said Goncalves.

Merces and Alvaro has one grandchild, and another one on the way. She plans to use the winnings to help fund her grandchildren’s education.

“Education is the key of the future,” she said.

It’s a future this grandmother refuses to gamble on.


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