MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Powerball jackpot has hit an estimated all-time high of $1.6 billion, prompting longtime players and first-timers to flock to buy tickets ahead of Saturday night’s draw.
At Woodman’s Markets in Madison, sisters Christy Bemis and Cherrie Spencer were among dozens of weekend shoppers who paid for groceries and loaded carts before joining the queue at the lottery counter to buy their luck to win the prize.
They said they hardly ever buy lottery tickets, but were drawn in by the size of the jackpot.
“My $2 is just as likely to win as anyone else’s $2,” Spencer said.
The counter was one of the busiest areas of the supermarket – so busy that employees were setting up stanchions to guide the queue. Like most online gamblers, 78-year-old Jim Olson used to buy Quick Picks, randomly generated Powerball numbers, but he doesn’t always do so.
Olson said he typically buys a Powerball ticket once every drawing “virtually since they started.” When he picks his own numbers, there’s no rhyme or reason to the way he does it: “They just come to you.” I can not explain it.”
Olson’s biggest win to date? $300 about 20 years ago, he says.
This speaks to the extremely long odds of winning the jackpot – around 1 in 292.2 million.
Still, the chance of pocketing $782.4 million (the value of the cash option before taxes) was enough to get people flooding across state lines for a chance to play. Winners of massive jackpots almost always opt for cash, but some financial experts say the annuity option, which is paid out over 30 years, might be a safer bet.
If she were to hit the jackpot, Bemis said she would “buy a house up north. Somewhere by a lake.
Across town, Djuan Davis manned the Pick ‘n Save lottery counter on Saturday morning, taking cash and handing out tickets. “Generally, there are a lot of sales on Saturdays,” he said.
With a record jackpot, business picked up. Davis also said he’s seen a recent increase in the number of players buying tickets online.
When customers came to the counter, Davis would ask how he could help them. Almost everyone answered the same thing: Powerball tickets.
“Every time is always the one,” Davis said.
It was the first time that Arpad Jakab bought Powerball tickets. As Davis sold him four Quick Pick tickets, Jakab, a retired utility worker, said he probably wouldn’t buy them back unless there was another record jackpot.
“It was just really high,” Jakab said. “Might as well join the madness.”
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