Powerball fever fuels local optimism

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Julia Bryant gives Richard Downin change after his Powerball purchase. Kaitlyn Mercer helped others during the steady traffic of customers Wednesday at AC&T. Downin planned to pay bills and “make everybody around me happy” if he won the lottery.

How much is $1.5 billion? The number is unfathomable to most people, because if they won the Jan. 13 Powerball lottery, what they planned to spend the winnings on didn’t even make a dent in the jackpot.

Wednesday’s drawing was the largest in U.S. history. Though the chance to win the grand prize was 1 in 292.2 million, it didn’t stop people from spending $2 on each ticket. In the spirit of fun, they have been descending upon local businesses in the past week to take that one step to beat the odds and be the person to win the unthinkable. But then they don’t really know how to spend it.

“It’s been crazy,” said Angie Myers, owner of Earl’s Market in State Line, and a lottery vendor.

The Powerball sales for the last two drawings drew many folk who were in happy moods, carrying on about their odds. The customers from Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia dreamed about a win, Myers said. One group of ladies was on a road trip to purchase tickets in several states.

Myers admitted she bought a few chances herself.

AC&T employees Julia Bryant and Kaitlyn Mercer were kept busy on North Antrim Way. Business was “crazy” too. They assisted regular gamblers and those who were playing for the first time. The store sold thousands of dollars worth of tickets in the days before the drawing. Individuals tended to fork over $10 or $20, although one person spent $200 for himself. An office pool went for $280. And the customers ranged from 18 to about 88-years-old.

“I really hope somebody hits it,” said Bryant.

Mercer indicated why. “I have nightmares of people saying ‘Powerball’.”

Always a chance

Denise and Dennis Heinbaugh generally get the computer pick on one lottery ticket per week. They upped their limit recently, though. Paula Hoover, and Duane and Julie Schroyer only buy when the pot is really big. Karla and Jim Baker spend a couple dollars every month or two. And Traci Akers has played only five times in her life.

“It is worth the price for the daydreams,” said Karla Baker.

There are those who do not play, ever.

Eileen Schwanke said, “I can play at home. Take that dollar bill and flush it down the toilet.”

Those taking a chance know what they would do immediately — usually paying off bills, buying a house or car, assisting family and friends, donating to favorite charities, setting up trust funds, and taking a trip.

Akers had consideration for the citizens of Greencastle. She would provide solar energy for everyone to help the planet and relieve the financial burden of the town.

“I dread getting the electric bill,” she said.

The $1.5 billion was the largest ever offered in the United States. The game is played in 44 states, with the exceptions being Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Utah, Mississippi and Alabama. Pennsylvania uses its proceeds for services to older residents. The payout of the latest Powerball would be $930 million (before taxes) for the immediate cash, or annual installments over 29 years.

In Pennsylvania,  which does not tax lottery prizes, the net would be $697.5 million in one shot, or yearly payments of $37.5 million.

The overall odds of winning anything in the Powerball was 1 in 24.87, as the other prize levels ranged from $1 million to $4.