Concurrent big lottery jackpots bringing players 'out of the woodwork'

The trash can near the lottery ticket machine at a Westminster Jiffy Mart was overflowing with receipts and spent scratch-offs early Friday evening as the after-work crowd tried their luck.

Carroll retailers have seen an increase in lottery ticket sales in recent days since the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots both topped $350 million.

Seth Elkin, a spokesman for the Maryland Lottery, confirmed that this is the first time the two games have passed the $350 million jackpot mark at the same time. The latest Mega Millions drawing was held late Friday night and the next Powerball drawing will be held Saturday night.

As of 6 p.m. Friday, the jackpot for Mega Millions, estimated at $382 million, was the sixth-largest in the 15-year history of the game, according to the Mega Millions website. The Powerball jackpot was an estimated $356 million.

The simultaneous swell in both jackpot sizes has led to excitement.

“We’ve seen an uptick in sales among regular lottery players. This thing also tends to draw in people who don’t play as frequently,” Elkin said.

Vicky Stitley, of Westminster, said she doesn’t usually play the lottery, but she purchased tickets for both games Friday at Silver Run Liquors. Her good luck ritual?

“Pray a little, I guess,” she said.

If she were to win, she said she has “a lot of ideas,” but would give money back to family, charity and the church.

For those who are new to the games, both drawings require exact matches on five numbers and then an exact match on a sixth from a different set of numbers to win the jackpot.

“We certainly encourage everyone to make sure they check their tickets,” Elkin said.

He reminded those not as familiar with the lottery that partial matches can still mean winnings.

“Even if you only matched one number, you might win a few bucks,” he said. “You can do that at any retailer by scanning them.” This can also be done through the Maryland Lottery app on smartphones.

In the Mega Millions game, the biggest jackpot in its history was worth $656 million that was split between three winning tickets in 2012, according to the website. A Maryland resident was one of the winners.

For Powerball, which was introduced to Maryland in 2010, this jackpot doesn’t even rate in the top 10.

Retailers in Carroll report a definite uptick in lottery sales.

“It brings everyone out of the woodwork,” Charlie Klein, an employee at Silver Run Liquors, said of a big lottery jackpot.

He added that it can be “a pain in the butt” for retailers. “You have to remind people that it’s cash only,” he said of selling the tickets.

Julie Parkins, a manager at Piper's Wine & Spirit Barn in Manchester, concurred that sales have increased.

“Definitely. They’ve been higher for the past over a week now,” she said. “This morning, one of my regulars, who never plays the Mega Millions, said he’d buy a ticket because [the jackpot] was so high.”

At the store, which also serves as a gas station and liquor store, she said she sees customers picking up lottery tickets as they go about their other errands.

Retailers receive commission on sales and tickets that they cash through their sales. They also receive a commission if they sell a winning ticket.

The 2017 financial year, which just wrapped up June 30, was a record-breaking one for retailers. According to a news release from the Maryland Lottery, $145.9 million came in from sales commissions, a 3.4 percent increase from last year.

Selling a winning ticket would be a good thing in her opinion.

“That would put us on the map,” she said. “We’ve sold some other winners before, but it’s been a while since we sold a big winner.”

crighter@baltsun.com

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