Hoping to get lucky as jackpot reaches $550 million

By Rose Schneider

As the Powerball jackpot reaches a record $550 million, people are heading to gas stations and grocery stores across Manhattan for a chance to win.

Tonight’s drawing sets a new record for Powerball. The highest previous jackpot was $365 million, won in February 2006 and split between eight co-workers at a Nebraska meat-packing plant.

Kansas Lottery Director Dennis Wilson said when jackpots move above $250 million, it’s not uncommon to have multiple jackpot winners.

“With such a large amount of money at stake, people are more apt to join with office groups, social clubs, family or friends to purchase a large pool of tickets together,” Wilson said in a release. “While having a single winner is great, people also like to see a group share the wealth.”

Employees at local convenience stores said they have seen a definite rise in Powerball ticket purchases in the last couple days.

“Our sales have at least doubled, maybe even tripled, in the last few days,” Manhattan Cenex employee Shirley Hardestey said.

The Anderson Avenue Shell station also has seen a rise in lottery ticket purchases.

“The Powerball went up $1 million since Sunday,” Shell employee Marcia Ortmann said. “A lot of people who don’t usually buy tickets are at least buying a few dollars’ worth.”

And gas station employees said they have seen customers who usually only spend a few dollars on the Powerball spending $20 or even $100 on tickets. Ortmann said a large majority of the ticket purchasers are people “ready to retire and in their 50s.”

Even though stores expect today’s sales to increase exponentially from sales Tuesday, none are taking extra steps to handle the expected lines for Powerball tickets.

“We’re expecting to get hit hard, but we’re not bringing in any additional staff or anything,” said Hy-Vee gas station manager Dennis Knight.

The likelihood of a person winning the jackpot is 1 in 175,223,510. However, there are other prizes up for grabs in tonight’s drawing. Hundreds of thousands of players will win secondary prizes at cash levels ranging from $4 to $1 million or $12 to $2 million if the lottery player has purchased the Power Play option.

A winner taking the cash option would get $360.2 million before taxes.

Even with the odds and huge tax liabilities in mind, people will continue to buy tickets on their lunch breaks and after work to take a chance on winning the big prize.

“Everyone wants to win,” Hardestey said.

Tickets will be sold until 8:59 tonight. The multimillion-dollar drawing will take place in Tallahassee, Fla., tonight at 9:59 p.m. central time.

Powerball was started in April 1992 in 15 states, including Kansas, with jackpots starting at a guaranteed $2 million. Since 1992, it has grown to include 42 states, plus Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands. Players buy more than $3 billion in Powerball tickets annually.

The Kansas Lottery is part of the Multi-State Lottery Association, a non-profit, government-benefit association owned and operated by the 33 member lotteries.

All profits are retained by the state lottery and used to fund projects approved by the state legislators.

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