Powerball fever is everywhere in Baltimore, with the jackpot at a record, $700 million. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
There was no winner in the drawing for a Powerball prize on Wednesday night, so Thursday afternoon, players were lining up to purchase more tickets in hopes of winning the largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history.
Many players say it's hard to ignore the estimated jackpot, which reached $800 million Friday, though the odds of winning are one in 292 million — meaning that. statistically, it's more likely one will be stuck by lightning in the next year.
That prize is over $100 million more than the Powerball jackpot won in May 2013 and the $656 million Mega Millions prize won in 2012.
The current jackpot's cash option is $496 million, which would net $328.6 million after taxes in Maryland.
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control agency reported an increase in sales this week. On Monday, $891,551 worth of tickets were sold, $1,623,975 on Tuesday and $6,132,448 on Wednesday.
Both seasoned and first-time bettors were stopping by the Soda Pop Shop Mart in Catonsville on Thursday afternoon, where the parking lot began to fill up as people were leaving work and heading home for the day. The Catonsville convenience store is the state's No. 1 lottery retailer.
Between Monday and Thursday in a typical week, employees said, they might sell 500 to 600 Powerball tickets. But this week, they've already sold 9,000.
Joyce Robinson, who stopped by the shop Thursday, said she did have some winning numbers in Wednesday night's drawing, but all those numbers were on different tickets. "No luck," she said.
She has put that behind her and is looking forward to Saturday's drawing.
"It don't discourage me," she said. "I say, 'What is meant to be is meant to be.'"
If she does win, the retired state employee said she'd use the funds to help the Fellowship Baptist Church on Belair Road.
"That would be first on my list," she said. Then she'd pay to take her friends on bus trips. When asked why not buy her own bus and pay a driver, she said she wouldn't want to fuss with maintaining one herself.
Seasoned Powerball player Jerry Bellamy said he normally buys two tickets per game but sprang for 10 for the big jackpot.
What would he do if he hit it big? Pay off his mortgage and give his Catonsville home to his daughter. And for himself? Bellamy said he'd want to stay in Baltimore County but move into a bigger home with some land.
"More country style, a house in the woods," he said.
Pavin Chittiwuttinon, who owns the 7-Eleven store on Key Highway in South Baltimore, said the large jackpot is good for his business. Customers stopping for gas, candy, or drinks often decide to splurge on a ticket.
"It usually trends up when the jackpot gets really big, which we don't mind," he said. "When the jackpot gets large, we have some new faces."
He said he's seen everything from first-time buyers getting their first ticket to the person buying $400 worth for an office pool.