News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 28, 2012

Powerful draw

Odds don’t keep Valley residents from buying chance at record $500M prize

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — You’re much more likely to be struck by lightning at some point in your life than you are of winning tonight’s $500 million Powerball jackpot, but that hasn’t stopped lottery fever from taking hold in Terre Haute.

In fact, according to one website that calculates odds, you’re far, far more likely to make a hole-in-one in golf or bowl a 300 game than win the grand prize. In fact, according to the website, www.funny2.com, you’re even more likely to be canonized as a saint than you are of winning tonight’s drawing.

The odds of being canonized are a mere 20,000,000-to-1 while the odds of winning tonight’s Powerball jackpot are a staggering 175,000,000-to-1.

But the lure of glittering wealth has still drawn thousands of people into local shops that sell lottery tickets.

“I had one guy come in and buy 100 [tickets] a while ago,” said Karyl Landsverk, who was working Tuesday afternoon at Fox Grocery in North Terre Haute. Nearly every customer at the store Tuesday bought at least one ticket, she said.

“That’s all I need, one,” said George Murphy, who purchased his Powerball ticket along with a pound of hamburger at Fox’s.

Asked what he would do with the money if he matches all five numbers plus the “Powerball,” Murphy’s answer focused on helping others.

“I’d make sure my kids are okay. I’d make sure the food banks are okay. Then I’d decide after that. People still have to eat,” he said.

A few miles to the south, Debbie Smock, who works at Page’s Market, said she planned to buy her lottery tickets as soon as she got off work. If she hits the Powerball jackpot, she’ll set aside money in the bank for her grandchildren, she said. She’ll also build a new home in Florida “where it’s warm,” pay off all of her debts and “help the poor.”

Even last week’s smaller Powerball jackpot of $325 million was enough to bring about a huge volume of lottery ticket sales at the BP gasoline station at the corner of Wabash and Brown avenues, said Dawn Haraway, an employee there. Sales were extremely brisk the Wednesday of that drawing, which didn’t have a winner. That drawing, plus Saturday’s, pushed tonight’s jackpot to about $500 million.

One customer purchased $568 in lottery tickets, Haraway said, adding she expects a huge volume of sales again today as the fateful 10:59 p.m. drawing approaches.

Vendors must stop selling lottery tickets at 9:45 p.m. Eastern time today.

Shannon Johnson of Rosedale, who plays the lottery only  occasionally, made a special stop on her way home from work Tuesday to purchase a single Powerball ticket at Fox’s. The size of the jackpot was all the motivation she needed, she said.

Standing at the counter of Fox’s, Johnson carefully selected her five – she hopes – lucky numbers based on the months in which her kids were born, she said. And if she wins, she and her husband would plan to move to Hawaii.

“My oldest daughter just moved there,” Johnson said smiling. “And I miss her.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.