Residents have a shot to win big

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 24, 2002

The jackpot is rising. But Herb Petersen isn't getting excited.

His poker face must be working well.

Petersen, of Austin, is one of many local, state and national residents who have bought tickets for tonight's Powerball jackpot that is expected to reach $280 million -- the third-highest in the game's history and the fifth-highest jackpot ever worldwide.

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Petersen said he just wants a chance, that's all.

"I usually figure I'm not going to win, but this gives me a chance," he said. "I play every week, twice a week. You only need one to win and you can't win without a ticket."

Jan Heim, the owner of Ankeny's No. 1 in northeast Austin, said people are starting to pour in to buy a chance at their dreams.

But it just didn't start today.

"I had a guy come in (Monday) and he bought $145 worth," she said. "I'm sure (today) will be nuts, as not that many places will be open."

Normally, Heim said the store will sell about $200 in Powerball tickets on a normal day. Before last Saturday's jackpot, the store rang up $1,200 that day on tickets.

"So it's a big difference when the jackpot's higher," she said.

Heim said she won't be surprised when people start coming in hordes toward tonight's drawing.

"You get a lot of last-minute people," she said.

Still, if someone hits the jackpot, it's going to be a nice stocking stuffer.

"Had we known this would turn out to be last-minute (Christmas) gifts, we would've promoted it better," said George Andersen, the lottery director. "We didn't see this coming."

Saturday's drawing was the 16th consecutive drawing without a jackpot winner, but 2.5 million people won a total of more than $24.5 million. That includes five $100,000 winners sold in Minnesota. They correctly matched the five white numbers, but not the red Powerball.

It's estimated that $113 million worth of tickets will be sold by the time of Wednesday's drawing in 23 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. More than $7 million worth will be bought in Minnesota, said Debbie Hoffman, Minnesota State Lottery spokeswoman.

A winner choosing the full $280 million prize would get it in 30 annual payments of $9.33 million, before taxes. A one-time cash option would yield an estimated $151.4 million.

"Yeah, I plan to stuff a few stockings with 'em," Jerry Pierson, 38, of Brooklyn Park said Monday, clutching a handful of $1 Quick Pick Powerball tickets for himself and his parents.

With the drawing falling on Christmas night, after a day in which most stores are closed, Hoffman had one piece of advice: "Buy early and often."

During this stretch of drawings, the various lotteries across the country have sold more than $400 million in tickets. More than 9.3 million players nationwide have won a total of more than $86.6 million in cash prizes since this jackpot run began in late October, when the big money was a meager $10 million.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report