Hopes for a half-billion dollars drew dreamers to convenience stores Tuesday as projections of an already record-setting Powerball jackpot ballooned at midday.
The jackpot for tonight's drawing grew to $500 million from $425 million after heavy ticket sales on Sunday and Monday propelled the total upward. No one has won a Powerball jackpot in the 15 draws since Oct. 3.
The payout will be the second-largest in U.S. history, after only the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot on March 30, so optimists and speculators stopped at corner stores to lay down $2 for a chance.
"Some people are coming in with $100" pooled between co-workers or friends, said Morris Goldstein, the manager at Frank's News at North Washington Avenue and Linden Street, Scranton.
The chances of winning aren't good: The odds are one in 175 million. Still, "I hope somebody around here wins," he said.
The prospect of riches has driven Powerball sales across Pennsylvania and the 43 other states and jurisdictions that participate in the multistate lottery.
Through noon on Tuesday, more than $64 million had been spent on Powerball and Powerplay tickets in Pennsylvania during the current jackpot run, generating more than $19.2 million for the state Lottery Fund, the Pennsylvania Lottery said.
The sky-high jackpot has spurred a particularly giddy rush this week.
At Markowitz Brothers tobacco and news shop on Linden Street, Georgia Fisch was rallying regulars to band together to buy tickets. She had 25 signed up by noon and more were lined up to buy tickets on their own.
Christopher West stopped in between appointments at his hair salon next door to buy Powerball tickets with the money he won from scratch-off games.
"Whoever wins that money is in big trouble," he said, adding that he wouldn't mind if it was him. "If I win, everyone I know wins."
Even Sid Markowitz, the store's nonagenarian owner, is playing. "I want to take a day off one of these days. Sure," he said.
On the corner of Spruce Street and Adams Avenue, lunch customers were buying Powerball tickets with their soup and sandwiches at Nickie's Fabulous Hoagies.
Sharon McPhillips, a clerk, said the rush started on Monday and won't peak until today. Tickets for tonight's drawing will be available until 9:59 p.m.
She plays Powerball, she said, "but when it gets this high, everybody else does too."
Everybody else includes Evie Rafalko McNulty, the county recorder of deeds, who stopped in to buy tickets after she got a text message alerting her that the jackpot had risen to $500 million. She already had $15 worth of tickets in her wallet.
"My goal is to be one of those people who Barack Obama wants to pay more taxes," the devoted Democrat said. "I want to be a 1 percenter."
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