Powerball jackpot could be $425 million: Should you join a lottery pool?


Ed Joyce/KPCC

Ticket holders aren't the only ones who benefit from a win like the one expected in Wednesday's Powerball drawing, estimated at $425 million. Stores known for selling winning tickets also see their business pick up. (File photo: This was not the winning ticket in the $590 million May 19, 2013 Powerball lottery drawing).

Are you buying a Powerball ticket today? Let us know what you'll do with the money in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Update 1:20 p.m.: Wednesday night's Powerball jackpot is expected to be around $425 million: Not a record, but certainly enough to get people in Southern California together to plunk down $2 for a chance.

Many of these people join groups or office pools to improve their chances: Co-workers, friends, colleagues.

At the Liquor Box store on Lincoln Avenue in Pasadena — one of the California Lottery's designated "Lucky Retailers," where previous winning tickets have sold — the owner told KPCC reporter Madhu Srikantha that one person purchased 300 Powerball tickets for a company group on Wednesday morning. And that's not even close to a record: The clerk added that another group bought 1,000 tickets a few months earlier, when the jackpot was similarly high.

Sometimes it works out well for everyone: Chris Roxas told KPCC reporter Anthony Perez that he was the leader of a lottery pool that won $667,000 in August 2010. He and 19 co-workers at Dynamic Inc. in Anaheim spent three months buying lottery tickets before they finally lucked out. Each of the 20 members received about $33,000 before taxes.

But sometimes buying lottery tickets in an office pool leads to misunderstandings, disagreements and even legal action. 

In 2005, a group called the “Lucky 7” won $315 million in a Mega Millions jackpot draw. Each of the co-workers who worked together at Kaiser Permanente in Garden Grove received about $20 million.

But four of their co-workers filed lawsuits, claiming they were entitled to $39 million each because of spoken agreements they had made with the winners. An Orange County Superior Court judge dismissed their case. 

Roxas advises people who would buy into a lottery pool not to take it too seriously. "It’s just for fun," he said. "Don’t actually waste your money putting all this [into the] lottery out there. Just be responsible, just take it as for fun."

Roxas said he used his winnings to buy a house in Arizona. Others used the cash to fix their houses. Someone bought a car.

The good fortune didn't change the co-workers' relationships.

"Yes, we actually still all work together," Roxas said. "Except one. One person was ready to retire, so she just retired recently, and the rest are here working together. Once in a while we still play."

Roxas says the group is trying their luck once more for tonight’s Powerball.

—KPCC reporters Anthony Perez and Madhu Srikantha

PreviouslyTicketholders aren't the only ones who benefit from a win like the one expected in Wednesday's Powerball drawing, estimated at $425 million so far. Stores known for selling winning tickets also see their business pick up as superstitious dreamers pour in, hoping luck will strike again.    

The jackpot for Wednesday's drawing would fetch a single winner a lump-sum payment of about $244.7 million. While not close to the record $590.5 million Powerball jackpot won by a Florida woman in May, Multi-State Lottery Association executive director Chuck Strutt said if no winning combination for the major jackpot is drawn Wednesday, "we would be in world record territory" going into Saturday's drawing.
The world's highest lottery jackpot was a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot sold in March 2012.
For jackpots as big as Wednesday's Powerball pot, convenience stores, gas stations and newsstands throughout the 43 states and other places where the game is played are deluged by ticket requests - including many from those who only play for massive jackpots they see as life-changing.
In addition to the bonus money the lottery gives to stores that sell tickets that win big, the retailers receive media coverage that can last for days and - best of all - get a boost from becoming known as the place that sold a winning ticket.
When word got out that a southeast Pennsylvania 7-Eleven sold a $1 million Powerball ticket on Saturday, customers hoping to experience some luck of their own flocked to the store.
"The manager said people were pouring into her store wanting to buy lottery tickets," 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said, referring to the store in Langhorne, Pa. "They were of course really excited that one of their customers had won."
At a Casey's General Store in Bondurant, Iowa, everyone knows it's the place where a $202.1 million Powerball jackpot ticket was sold to a local woman in September. Asked what types of questions the store gets when the jackpots get huge, assistant manager Debra Fetters said: "Does lightning strike twice here?"
When a winning ticket for a $241 million Powerball jackpot was sold in June 2012 at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Rapids, the store also got into the spirit. It held up a banner about the winners - 20 Quaker Oats plant workers - and a fake Styrofoam check was posted for others to see.
"I do have customers that they do come here specifically when the numbers get higher," said store manager Jason Busswitz. "For some individuals, it does create a little more excitement around the Powerball machine."
Sometimes that involvement from the store helps ignite interest to return, said Adriana Binns, director of marketing and communication for the New Mexico Lottery.
"When you get those stores where they've actually seen someone win, they're very enthusiastic about it. They know about the game, they have regular customers. A lot of it really does come down to great retailers that support the lottery, understand that there are winners on both sides."
Linda Hamlin, also of the New Mexico Lottery, noted the story of "Millionaire Mary" Torres of Albuquerque. After she sold a $1 million winning Powerball ticket to an Albuquerque man in May 2011, she became known as a good luck charm. Her customers followed her to another store a few miles away.
"It's hard to explain," Hamlin said of people who think such buying strategy gives them an edge. "It's illogical because this whole nature of good luck and how random it is. You never know when and where good fortunate is going to strike."
Luck may be random, but there are more winning lottery tickets for smaller $1 million and $2 million prizes since a major overhaul of the Powerball game in January 2012. An increase in ticket prices from $1 to $2 was aimed at building jackpots faster and generating more money.
Those smaller prizes still carry a big punch for their winners, and some people are willing to try any strategy to win them.
"Humans tend to be superstitious about things," said Strutt of the Multi-State Lottery Association. "We all have our ways to ensure our best luck. But every ticket has the exact same chance of winning."

—The Associated Press

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