The Powerball lottery game approved, then abandoned, changes that would have given ticket buyers better odds.
DES MOINES, Iowa - When word got out that a southeast Pennsylvania 7-Eleven sold a $1 million Powerball ticket on Saturday, superstitious dreamers began pouring into the store in the hopes that luck would strike twice.
For jackpots as big as Wednesday's Powerball pot, which stood at an estimated $425 million on Tuesday, convenience stores, gas stations and newsstands throughout the 43 states and other places where the game is played are deluged by ticket requests, including many from those who only play for massive jackpots they see as life-changing.
It's not just ticketholders who benefit from a lottery win, but the stores like the one in Langhorne, Pa., which sold Saturday's $1 million ticket. In addition to the bonus money the lottery gives to stores that sell tickets that win big, the retailers receive media coverage that can last for days and best of all, get a boost from becoming known as the place that sold a winning ticket.
"The manager said people were pouring into her store wanting to buy lottery tickets," 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said, referring to the Langhorne store. "They were of course really excited that one of their customers had won."
At a Casey's General Store in Bondurant, Iowa, everyone knows it's the place where a $202.1 million Powerball jackpot ticket was sold to a local woman in September. Asked what types of questions the store gets when the jackpots get huge, assistant manager Debra Fetters said: "Does lightning strike twice here?"
The estimated $425 million jackpot for Wednesday's drawing would fetch a singer winner a lump-sum payment after taxes of about $244.7 million. Although it wasn't close to the record $590.5 million Powerball jackpot won in May by a Florida woman, jackpots as big as Wednesday's bring in casual players, meaning it could jump considerably before the drawing.
"If it surpasses Wednesday's drawing, we would be in world record territory," said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. The world's highest lottery jackpot was a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot sold in March 2012.
When a winning ticket for a $241 million Powerball jackpot was sold in June 2012 at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Rapids, the store also got into the spirit. It held up a banner about the winners -- 20 Quaker Oats plant workers -- and a fake Styrofoam check was posted for others to see.
"I do have customers that they do come here specifically when the numbers get higher," said store manager Jason Busswitz. "For some individuals, it does create a little more excitement around the Powerball machine."
Sometimes that involvement from the store helps ignite interest to return, said Adriana Binns, director of marketing and communication for the New Mexico Lottery.
"When you get those stores where they've actually seen someone win, they're very enthusiastic about it. They know about the game, they have regular customers. A lot of it really does come down to great retailers that support the lottery, understand that there are winners on both sides."
Linda Hamlin, also of the New Mexico Lottery, noted the story of "Millionaire Mary" Torres of Albuquerque. After she sold a $1 million winning Powerball ticket to an Albuquerque man in May 2011, she became known as a good luck charm. Her customers followed her to another store a few miles away.
"It's hard to explain," Hamlin said of people who think such buying strategy gives them an edge. "It's illogical because this whole nature of good luck and how random it is. You never know when and where good fortunate is going to strike."
Luck may be random, but there are more winning lottery tickets for smaller $1 million- and $2 million jackpots since a major overhaul of the Powerball game in January 2012. An increase in ticket prices from $1 to $2 was aimed at building jackpots faster and generating more money.
Those smaller jackpots still carry a big punch for its winners, and some people are willing to try any strategy to win them.
"Humans tend to be superstitious about things," said Strutt of the Multi-State Lottery Association. "We all have our ways to ensure our best luck. But every ticket has the exact same chance of winning."
The next drawing is scheduled for Wednesday night.
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