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‘Crossed fingers’: Carroll countians testing their luck with huge Mega Millions, Powerball contests

Jeff Kuhn and co-worker Nick Fisher walked into House of Liquors in Westminster around noon Friday with instructions from their fellow 84 Lumber employees.

“Our whole staff gave us money so we could come over,” said Kuhn upon leaving the liquor store with a fistful of lottery tickets. “We decided that we’ll go out and get it.”

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The Westminster residents weren’t the only ones with dollar signs in their eyes as the Mega Millions’ nationwide drawing closed in. Friday’s $750 million jackpot is the second largest in Mega Millions history, according to the lottery website. Meanwhile, Saturday’s Powerball drawing is set at $640 million, the highest it has been in nearly two years and one of the largest in its history.

“Absolutely, it brings out more interest,” Kuhn said. “We all talk about it all the time, and what we’re all going to do. New house, new cars. Yeah, we’re ready.”

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Melanie Abbott sat behind the counter close to the store’s entrance, near the lottery machine and alongside a case of scratch-off tickets as customers came in for beverages and what they hoped would be the winning numbers. A former liquor store manager, Abbott said she has been at House of Liquors for eight years and enjoys her position as “Lady Luck,” overseer of the Maryland Lottery scratch-offs, games, and prizes for anyone who wins.

Abbott and other liquor store employees said Mega Millions and Powerball business has been steady this week, and people tend to show up in waves wanting their chance at the winning ticket.

House of Liquors Lottery clerk Melanie Abbott rings up Mega Millions and Powerball tickets for Chuck Huber of Westminster Friday, Jan. 15. Mega Millions and Powerball have huge jackpots this week, over a billion dollars combined.
House of Liquors Lottery clerk Melanie Abbott rings up Mega Millions and Powerball tickets for Chuck Huber of Westminster Friday, Jan. 15. Mega Millions and Powerball have huge jackpots this week, over a billion dollars combined. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

No tickets matched the six winning numbers in Wednesday’s Powerball drawing, one day after the Mega Millions drawing failed to come up with a winner. Mega Millions and Powerball tickets are $2 apiece. The Friday Mega Millions night drawing was set for 11 p.m., and Saturday’s Powerball drawing takes place around 11:20 p.m.

The U.S. record for the largest jackpots in lottery history is just north of $1.5 billion, according to an article on CNN’s website. A Powerball prize of $1.586 billion was split between three winners in January 2016. A $1.537 billion Mega Millions prize in October 2018 was claimed anonymously by someone from South Carolina, according to the article.

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That means potential chaos as the next drawings take place for many of Carroll’s bars, restaurants, and packaged good establishments that feature lottery.

“It’s been busy,” Abbott said, “but I like it that way.”

The off-track betting portion of Greenmount Station is closed for the next two weeks, but inside the restaurant’s lounge employee Michelle King was waiting for any customers who might want to purchase some lottery tickets while enjoying some food and drink. King, a Hampstead resident, said COVID-19 has affected some of Greenmount’s usual walk-in traffic associated with big lottery drawings, but the establishment has still experienced a steady week in sales.

House of Liquors staff estimated a 20-25% increase in lottery sales because of the Mega Millions and Powerball potential payouts.

That’s what brought Westminster Chuck Huber out for a special trip.

I don’t play a lot, but when they get big I come in,” Huber said. “Crossed fingers.”

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