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Lottery players try their luck at record Powerball jackpot

Kimberly Brown laughs as she hands a stack of Powerball tickets to a customer at Choice Cigarette Discount Outlet on East College Avenue on Friday, January 8, 2016. The record jackpot is $800,000,000 and growing for Saturday's drawing.
Kimberly Brown laughs as she hands a stack of Powerball tickets to a customer at Choice Cigarette Discount Outlet on East College Avenue on Friday, January 8, 2016. The record jackpot is $800,000,000 and growing for Saturday's drawing. adrey@centredaily.com

When Janine Wallace heard the Powerball jackpot hit an all-time high at 11 a.m. Friday, she knew she had to get to the nearest store that sold tickets.

The Benner Township resident said she included family members in a lottery pool who spent about $100 on tickets at Sheetz on Benner Pike in College Township.

“Just wanted to give it a shot,” she said. “Everyone else is playing, so why not try ourselves.”

Pennsylvania Lottery announced the estimated annuity was $800 million, with an estimated cash prize of $496 million.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” Pennsylvania Lottery spokesman Gary Miller said.

Convenience stores in the Centre Region like Choice Cigarette Discount Outlet on East College Avenue even saw a spike in business, with a steady flow of people buying tickets during business hours.

A store clerk at Sheetz said lottery tickets sales were “on and off” in the morning and afternoon, but the store sees a spike in the evenings as people are headed home from work.

Choice store manager Casey Murdie said he has no tips for people playing, except to just wing it but is on hand to help people if they need it.

Wallace said she doesn’t have favorite or lucky numbers but picked numbers based on ages of her children and grandchildren.

“Hopefully those are lucky,” she said.

People began buying tickets at Choice as early as Thursday morning, Murdie said.

“We had people come in as soon as it reached $450 million,” he added.

He compared the spike in sales to a similar one during the holidays when people were buying lottery tickets for stocking stuffers.

“The size of the jackpot is bringing people out who normally don’t play,” Murdie said. “For those who do, they just seem to be buying more tickets and trying to get on the winning end.”

Stores that sell lottery tickets are licensed by the state, Murdie said.

There is no limit to the amount of tickets a patron can purchase, nor a limit on how many tickets a retailer can sell, Miller said, but encourages people to “play responsibly.”

“All it takes is one ticket, and some people are only $2 away from their dream,” Miller said.

Tickets are generated on a sales terminal and printed on location.

“During high jackpots we make sure they have extra ticket stock on hand,” Miller said.

Murdie didn’t recall a time there has been a big ticket win at the store, but on occasions he has seen people win more than $100.

“A big win is really based on opinion, but it’s nice to see people’s reaction when they do win,” he said.

When asked what she would do if she won the Powerball jackpot, Wallace said, “it’s hard to fathom that kind of money.”

“I don’t even know what I’d do with a million dollars, let alone hundreds of millions,” she said.

Powerball drawing days are Wednesday and Saturday, and the cutoff time for purchase of a Powerball ticket is 9:59 p.m. on those days.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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