, Newburyport, MA

May 18, 2013

Dreams for sale: Powerball jackpot hits $600 million

Drawing will be held tonight


---- — SEABROOK — Residents from both sides of the border may be filing their tanks with gas at the Monster Gas Station in town, but they’re also filling their pockets with Powerball tickets now that the jackpot’s headed into the stratosphere.

According to lottery officials, the drawing reached an estimated $600 million yesterday -- a new record for the multi-state game -- after there was no winner in Wednesday’s drawing. The cash option on the prize is an estimated $376.9 million. The previous highest Powerball jackpot was $587 million in November 2012.

“I’d say businesses has at least doubled for Powerball tickets,” said Monster Gas Station convenient store clerk Walter Sullivan. “And when they come in to play Powerball for a jackpot like this, they play other games, too.”

That’s why the jackpot in Mega Millions is also high, with an annuity jackpot of $190 million, $140 million if the winner takes the immediate cash pay out.

Sullivan, who also works at the Amesbury Mobil Station owned by Charles Mabardy, said business in Seabrook is brisker for lottery tickets than in Amesbury. The reason is the reputation Seabrook has for lower gas prices, plentiful lottery outlets and a healthy retail district with no state sales tax.

Sullivan said a lot of people go in with others in office pools, which have increased during this Powerball run. Sullivan bought a ticket for Wednesday’s drawing but didn’t hit, and he’ll buy another for tonight’s drawing.

“I’ll buy one, but only one,” Sullivan said. “You only need one to win.”

With two gas/convenience store complexes in New Hampshire and three in Massachusetts, lottery jackpot mania is good for business, Mabardy said.

“Business is up for lottery in all my locations,” Mabardy said. “But it’s not like it used to be when New Hampshire was the only state around in Powerball. Back then, the lines for tickets were out the door and around the building. That doesn’t happen any more.”

But the big jackpots help, he said.

As of 12:30 p.m. yesterday, Powerball tickets in Massachusetts were selling at a rate of approximately $6,000 per minute, according to Lottery officials, and it was expected that lottery retailers will be selling as much as $24,000 in Powerball tickets a minute during peak hours leading up tonight’s drawing.

Lottery officials expect jackpot totals of this size to continue to climb in shorter amounts of time, thanks in part to a game redesign in January 2012 that increased the odds of winning some kind of prize, but also lowered the possible number combinations to win the Powerball. That’s also when the price of a ticket rose from $1 to $2.

The redesign means players don’t necessarily have to strike it big to get lucky. The $1 increase and new $1 million and $2 million prizes means the odds of winning something have increased. On Wednesday, $1 million prizes were won in 16 states, and $2 million prizes were won in two states.

In fact, more than half of the all-time jackpot records have been reached in the last three years. The top two all-time jackpots — $656 million from a Mega Millions jackpot and $587.5 million from a Powerball jackpot — were achieved in 2012.

The last major jackpot win came when a New Jersey man won a $338.3 million jackpot on March 23. It is now considered the fourth largest Powerball jackpot in history.

Another reason for projected high Powerball jackpots is the entrance of in the game of California, which as a population of about 38 million people. California sold $83 million worth of Powerball tickets since it started selling them in April and overall has accounted for 11 percent of the game’s sales in the country, fueling such fast-growing mega-jackpots like the latest one that has the potential to be a record-breaker.

Although the odds of winning are one in 175 million, with jackpots this large, many who don’t normally play get in the game. And for those who always play, it’s part of their routine.

Still waiting for a lucky payout, Seabrook Code Enforcement Officer Paul Garand said he’ll keep buying tickets.

“I always buy a ticket,” said Garand. “I buy because if you don’t play, you can’t win. For $2 you can’t go wrong.”

The $2 tickets does more than give purchasers a chance to win, Sullivan said, it’s a chance to dream for a few days about what the money could bring.

“It’s the hope,” he said. “You have to have hope, right?”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.