Powerball players dream big

Denny Granatire, 60 of Plum purchases Powerball lottery tickets from Bilal Ahmad, 23 at the Cash and Carry convenience store in Plum Tuesday, November 27, 2012.  The Powerball jackpot is currently at $500 million.
Denny Granatire, 60 of Plum purchases Powerball lottery tickets from Bilal Ahmad, 23 at the Cash and Carry convenience store in Plum Tuesday, November 27, 2012. The Powerball jackpot is currently at $500 million.
Photo by Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 12:27 a.m.

Sharon Mckrell usually spends about $5 a week on Powerball tickets at the Fueland in Freeport, but not this week.

Mckrell, 58, of Freeport has doubled her Powerball budget in hopes of winning Wednesday's record jackpot of $500 million.

The $500 million would be paid out over 30 years; the lump sum would be about $219 million after taxes.

“We play it all the time,” she said. “But we play more when the jackpot is really high.”

Mckrell isn't the only one stepping up her lottery game in hopes of winning The Big One.

Zack Mainhart, a cashier at the gas station located at 222 Buffalo St., said he usually sells about $200 worth of lottery tickets during his shift, but that number has gone up dramatically as the jackpot rises.

“I got here at 6 (a.m.) and we've already sold about $500 worth of tickets,” Mainhart said as he handed Mckrell her tickets just after noon Monday.

Freeport's Fueland has had three $1 million lottery winners over the past five years. Mainhart said he thinks that reputation has led to some extra folks coming specifically to the store to play.

“We also had a handful of other people who won some other big prizes,” Mainhart said. “People come in here just to play. It's the place in Freeport to buy lottery tickets.”

LeighAnn Beacom, 42, of Worthington buys her Powerball tickets at Asay's News Stand in Tarentum. Beacom is one of the many players who buys tickets as part of a large group, willing to split any winnings with friends, as she slightly betters her odds by buying more tickets.

“I work at Highland Tire and we have about 14 people that buy tickets together,” she said. “We usually only play when it's really high.”

Working behind the counter at Asay's, located at 328 E. Sixth Ave., Jeanine Richards said the store usually sees more players as the jackpot grows.

“People you would never think about buying a ticket come in and buy one,” she said. “People who normally buy one now buy five.”

The store where the winning Powerball ticket is sold will receive $100,000, according to the Pennsylvania lottery. But, retailers make about 5 cents on every $1 lottery ticket they sell, and the rush for tickets can provide a nice bonus. A Powerball ticket costs $2.

“We see between a 15 and 20 percent increase when the jackpot gets really high,” said Andy Bencak, who was working behind the counter at Creighton News and Lottery at 1045 Freeport Road in East Deer. “A lot of people come out of the woodwork to buy.”

The odds of matching all six Powerball numbers, which is what one needs to happen to win the full $500 million, are 1-in-175 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association, which oversees the Powerball. By comparison, the National Weather Service puts one's odds at being hit by lightning in a given year at 1-in-1 million.

ESPN estimates a high school basketball player has odds of 1-in-100,000 of making it to the NBA.

The odds are much better for winning a smaller prize. Matching five of six Powerball numbers, which can win someone $2 million, has odds of about 1-in-1.5 million. Getting the powerball number alone, with odds of 1-in-55, will earn a lucky person $4.

But the long odds of hitting the jackpot don't deter the optimists.

Sharon Mckrell already has plans for the money, if she wins. “I'd buy a new house, get a new car, help out family,” she said.

“I'd imagine you could have a pretty great Christmas with all that money.”

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