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Monday, January 5, 2009


Powerball Jackpot Huge but Sales are Slow

Sunday was the first day Floridians could buy tickets for Powerball, the multistate lottery with bigger jackpots than Florida's own games.


Sunday, 01.04.09


Peter Vasquez strolled out of the Publix supermarket near Northeast 90th Street and Biscayne Boulevard on Sunday, several lottery tickets in hand.

For $8, the 57-year-old bought Mega Money and Fantasy 5 tickets -- and a stake in the newest game to reach the Sunshine State: Powerball.

''I heard so much about it,'' said Vasquez, who said he buys lottery tickets just about every day. ``I figure, let's see what happens.''

Tickets for the multistate lottery known for steep payouts and even steeper odds went on sale in Florida for the first time Sunday. The next drawing -- with an estimated jackpot of $105 million -- will be broadcast from Universal Studios in Orlando at 10:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Powerball mania wasn't rampant Sunday. While some stores, including News Plus on University Drive in Tamarac, were busy, others reported few Powerball buyers.

A man behind the counter at the BP gas station at the corner of U.S. 1 and Northeast Sixth Street in Fort Lauderdale said Sunday he had sold only two Powerball tickets, and one of them was to himself.

Still, Powerball has given anyone with a dollar and a dream a chance -- a very slight chance -- to strike it rich. In each drawing, five white balls are pulled out of a drum of 59, along with one red ball -- the Powerball -- chosen from among 39 balls.

With the Sunshine State included, the starting jackpot will grow to $20 million. Average jackpots are expected to shoot up to $141 million, lottery officials previously said, as opposed to the current average of $96 million.

Florida is the 30th state to join the mix, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. State leaders decided last year to join in the hope of bringing in more money after profits from the Florida Lottery began to drop.

But adding Florida also makes the chances of winning the jackpot lower. Before, they were one in 146 million. Now, they will be one in more than 195 million.

Long odds don't scare Vasquez.

''I'm hoping to get a big one,'' said Vasquez, an antiques dealer who intends to keep on buying Florida Lottery tickets, too.


He has company. Powerball business was brisk at News Plus, 5781 N. University Dr., Tamarac, which sold the $6 million Florida Lotto winner in the Dec. 31 drawing.

Interest in the Florida Lotto game was down, which is typical after a recent win brings the jackpot down to $3 million, said Vince Maiorino, who runs the store with his wife, Grace.


About two-thirds of their ticket sales Sunday were for Powerball, with the other third for the various Florida Lottery games, he said. Grace Maiorino estimated that, as of 8:45 p.m. Sunday, the store had sold about $2,600 worth of Powerball tickets.

''People that normally come in to buy Lotto are buying Lotto and Powerball,'' Maiorino said. ``And we see people coming in just to buy Powerball.''

Back at the Publix on Biscayne Boulevard, retiree Claude LaRoche stopped to ask a cashier about the new game.

''I play Lotto every week, and I'm going to play Powerball,'' said LaRoche, of Miami Shores.

``It's $105 million, so I'll take my chances.''


He said he would come back Monday to buy his tickets.

LaRoche said he spends about $15 a week on Florida Lotto, and said he plans to buy between $5 and $10 worth of Powerball tickets as well.

''It's very difficult,'' LaRoche said, ``but someone's gotta win.''


"In each drawing, five white balls are pulled out of a drum of 59, along with one red ball -- the Powerball -- chosen from among 39 balls."

In fact, as of Saturday, five white balls were individually ejected from a globe of 55, and one red ball was ejected from another globe of 42 balls. Will it be the same method now?
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