Posted on Fri, Feb. 17, 2006

Record jackpot prompts ticket-buying frenzy in Minnesota

Associated Press

Steady streams of Powerball players flowed into downtown convenience stores Friday, buying chances in Saturday's drawing for the record $365 million jackpot.

Some ticket-buyers couldn't help but imagine what they could do with the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

"I intend to go, perhaps, to Paris," said Robert Sayon Morris, after buying a ticket Friday at Billy and Marty's convenience store. Sayon Morris said he went to the French capitol city 20 years ago and would like to go back.

Would he quit his gig at a bank's corporate credit card department?

"Of course," he said.

And after beating the 1 in 146,107,962 odds for matching all five numbers plus the Powerball, Sayon Morris, of Brooklyn Park, said he'd invest some of the money and give a portion to his church and to help the unfortunate.

With Friday's temperatures dipping below zero and winds howling through downtown, ticket-buyer Nicole Wilson, 36, said she'd use the money to take a spring break cruise to Greece.

Eric Bader, cashier at On the Go convenience store in the Minneapolis skyway, said he'd been "hugely busy" selling tickets. "Yesterday (Thursday), lines were out the door," Bader said.

Minnesota Lottery Executive Director Clint Harris said he expected between $6 million and $7 million in sales for the drawing that started Thursday and ends Saturday night. For a normal jackpot, Minnesota Powerball sales would be about $500,000.

Harris said the frenzy that surrounds the big jackpots can persuade some people to spend too much on tickets. "I really encourage people to have fun, but play within their means," he said.

The top selling retailers tend to be in the Twin Cities area, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, except for M&H Gas in Moorhead. It's the only retailer outside the metro area to be in the lottery's top five, he said.

The station once benefited from players coming over from North Dakota, but that state joined the Powerball drawing in 2004. With the addition, Minnesota is now surrounded by Powerball states, Harris said.

On Thursday and Friday, M&H Gas station had heavy ticket-buying traffic with rushes during the lunch hours, said manager Craig Bramby.

Bramby said crowds haven't been as big as in the past. "Before North Dakota got the Powerball, we had lines going out the door," he said.

The game is now played in 28 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

University of Minnesota mathematics professor Doug Arnold put the slim chances of winning the jackpot into a grim perspective. Taking into account the U.S. annual death rate for 2005, Arnold calculates that the chances of dying in the next 30 seconds are greater than winning the jackpot.

But Arnold had some practical advice for living lottery players. He suggested playing numbers that others won't pick, so a winner doesn't have to split the money.

"You shouldn't pick a number that follows a pattern or one that you find on a fortune cookie," he said.

When asked what he would do if he played and won, Arnold said, "I would go see a financial adviser."

Archie Ingersoll can be reached at

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