With an estimated jackpot of more than $500 million, the odds are many individuals were waiting in line to buy a Powerball ticket somewhere in the United States at some time Wednesday.
Forty-four states offer Powerball as part of their state lottery programs. Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah do not, so somebody has to win, right?
Probably not — the odds of winning the total jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association.
In other words, the odds are greater that a high school football player will play professional ball, (one in 1 million) than someone will win, but that has not stopped many area residents from trying their luck.
State Lottery officials announced that Missouri is ranked second in terms of Powerball jackpot winners with 31.
“We’d had an increase in ticket sales over the past few days,” Bob Brown, manager at Bing’s West Grocery Store, said mid-day Wednesday. “I’d say they have probably quadrupled over what we normally see with this jackpot.
“We still have the everyday players who play every time there is a drawing,” Brown said. “But whenever the drawings get to be this big we see a lot of players who only come out for these kinds of jackpots.”
Brown said the store had not experienced any tremendously long lines yet, but employees were expecting the Powerball rush to start around 3 p.m.
“When I first started here in 1995, there were times when the lines would be from the office all the way through the frozen food aisles,” Brown said. “I think it was because the whole concept was new then that so many people wanted to play.”
Brown and two of the store’s employees, Cathy Parker and Natasha Logan, said the average ticket buyer tended to be age 40 and older.
Frequent players tend to buy multiple tickets, often five or six at a time, according to Parker.
Tickets are $2 each and Missouri offers a $3 power play option.
“A lot of the time the customers will joke with us and tell us they will split their winnings with us,” Parker said. “One man told me he would buy me a cup of coffee when he won.
“I told him that would be great as long as it came with a mansion,” Parker added with a laugh.
Wednesday’s drawing was the fourth-highest Powerball jackpot ever, according to the Missouri Lottery.
At noon Wednesday, state Lottery officials released the figure for the cash option at $306 million for a single winner. Winners have the option of receiving payments over 29 years or the smaller cash lump sum.
Although it will be known if someone has the winning ticket, it may not be known who the individual or individuals are for a period.
The winner(s) have 180 days from the date of the drawing to claim their prize.
One known winner in all of this is the federal government. No matter what state the winner lives in, the government will take 25 percent automatically before any income taxes are filed.
Brown said despite the odds, he had purchased two tickets for the drawing and went in on the store’s pool as well.
“I think if I were to win I would put a portion of it aside to just blow on the list of things I always wanted,” Brown said. “The rest I would put in my retirement fund and invest; I could live off the interest from that for the rest of my life.
“I really think that’s why people play the lottery — they have a hope and a dream of making their wishes come true,” Brown said. “It’s neat to see what other people’s values are and what they would do with the money.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484