Powerball pandemonium: Locals continue buying lottery tickets as purse rises to $1.5 billion

Baldev Singh, owner of the Mini Mart in St. Joseph, handles a Powerball lottery ticket purchase Tuesday afternoon. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Baldev Singh, owner of the Mini Mart in St. Joseph, handles a Powerball lottery ticket purchase Tuesday afternoon. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BERRIEN COUNTY — The odds of hitting the Powerball jackpot is one in more than 292 million. Despite the disparaging odds, many are still buying tickets in the hopes of winning a fortune.

Jim Smith of Benton Harbor said he has been buying tickets since the Powerball jackpot began. He said he sticks to the same routine by buying three to 10 tickets at a time, though the lottery’s winnings have reached a historic $1.5 billion.

“You can pick your own, or you can have the computer pick them,” Smith said. “I just have the computer pick mine. If you have a set of lucky numbers that you use, you can’t get off them because you think the first week you miss, they’ll come out.”

If he were to win, Smith said he would give the ticket to his daughter because she is much younger. Smith says this would be the best way to get the most out of the jackpot.

“After talking with attorneys, if she decided to take the annuity payout for the next 29 years, she could get it all that way,” Smith said. “I’m 67 and I know she’d take care of me.”

If someone does wins the whole pot, they could choose a one-time $930 million cash payment or the entire $1.5 billion spread out in annual payments over 29 years. Taxes would cut both totals by about 40 percent.

Baldev Singh, owner of the Mini Mart in St. Joseph, said lottery ticket sales have been increasingly good. During the last week, many have been going in together on the Powerball, buying tickets as a group.

“I sold a bunch to a guy who bought 250 tickets for $500,” Singh said. “People mostly do the quick pick. Rarely do I see someone who uses their own selection.”

Singh said ticket sales began to pick up when the purse amount hit half a billion. Singh said he believes the lottery could continue for a couple more weeks because of the increased odds.

Matthew Curtis works at the Shell gas station on the corner of Hilltop Road and Cleveland Avenue.

Over the course of the weekend, Curtis said it felt like everyone who came through the doors has wanted to buy a ticket.

“I’ve seen someone drop $500 on tickets,” Curtis said. “It’s been going up and it will keep going up. Everyone gets more excited about it because the jackpot gets higher. However, with more people buying tickets, it’s harder to win.”

Other than a few outliers, Curtis said the majority of customers will buy one or two tickets at the most.

“The other day I got a cramp in my finger from pushing the button so much” on the machine that processes the tickets, he said. “If I won, my friends would get a good chunk of it … then I would just coast, maybe get a house or an island after that.”

Benton Harbor resident Patrick Bailey doesn’t spend much on lotteries, but said he has thought about what he wants to do with the money.

“I would give some to charity at the Salvation Army and the Homeless Shelter because I have been homeless before,” he said. “My friends and family would get a good amount. I wouldn’t quit working, though, because I’d want something to do.”

DeeDee Strickel, who commutes to St. Joseph from Indiana, said there has been a lot of ruckus about the Powerball outside of Michigan as well.

Strickel said people have been asking her what she would do with the winnings, but she wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“I just don’t want to gamble any money,” she said. “I’m too realistic and I know I wouldn’t win. It seems like a waste of time and effort to go get a ticket.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 13, 2016)

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