Dream ticket: Delawareans spend millions on Powerball

Dover resident Cliff Hatch Sr. purchases Powerball tickets from Mike’s Food Mart manager Jiger Patel Tuesday afternoon at the Governors Avenue store. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Dover resident Cliff Hatch Sr. purchases Powerball tickets from Mike’s Food Mart manager Jiger Patel Tuesday afternoon at the Governors Avenue store. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — With an estimated $1.5 billion up for grabs in tonight’s Powerball drawing, more people than ever are buying their tickets to have a chance at the jackpot.

“We sold 13,000 tickets on Saturday alone,” said Mike Patel, owner of Mike’s Food Mart on Governor’s Avenue in Dover.

That was for the last drawing with a jackpot of $800 million. The jackpot was the largest in U.S. history at the time. It surged past the previous record payout of $590.5 million, won on May 18, 2013.

Mr. Patel’s shop is one of the biggest retailers of lottery tickets in Kent County and said the increased Powerball jackpot is keeping his store busy.

Purchasing her tickets at Mike’s Food Mart in Dover Tuesday, Marilyn Wilkins of Dover has Powerball fever. She’s eager to win part or all of the $1.5 billion up for grabs. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Purchasing her tickets at Mike’s Food Mart in Dover Tuesday, Marilyn Wilkins of Dover has Powerball fever. She’s eager to win part or all of the $1.5 billion up for grabs. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“Every day I see new faces, people I’ve never had buying tickets from here before,” he said.

The past few drawings have been keeping the other 600 lottery retailers in the state busy as well. According to the Delaware Lottery, at the purchasing peak for Saturday’s drawing, there were 25 lottery transactions per second in Delaware.

“The busiest times are usually between 5 and 7 p.m., when people are getting off work, and those hours are especially busy on the day of a drawing,” Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware Lottery said.

Mr. Kirk expects the peak selling point this evening to be between 30 and 35 transactions per second.

“There will definitely be high sales Wednesday evening but when the jackpot is this big, which we’ve never seen before, people will be anticipating lines so plenty of people have probably already bought their ticket for Wednesday’s drawing since Saturday’s ended,” he said.

One of Mr. Patel’s regulars is Cliff Hatch Sr. of Dover who usually buys one ticket per Powerball drawing but was out on Tuesday buying his in advance.

“I usually buy some gas and come in to play Keno,” he said. “I play the Powerball regularly but today (Tuesday) I bought three tickets.”

William Warren of Magnolia is also a regular player but said even people he knows have never played are joining in on the fun.

With $1.5 billion on his mind, William Waring of Magnolia holds in hand what he hopes to be the lucky Powerball ticket Tuesday afternoon at Mike’s Food Mart on Dover. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

With $1.5 billion on his mind, William Waring of Magnolia holds in hand what he hopes to be the lucky Powerball ticket Tuesday afternoon at Mike’s Food Mart on Dover. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“It’s really exciting for everyone,” he said. “Since it’s so big, everyone wants to play so more and more people I know have been buying tickets lately.”

All the new and regular players aren’t only paying into the jackpot, they’re contributing to the state’s general fund.

According to law, about one-third of lottery sales go to the state.

That means the $3.75 million in ticket sales for Saturday’s drawing, the state got paid more than $1 million.

After the state’s cut and additional taxes, a single winner of tonight’s $1.5 billion jackpot could opt for a cash option payout of $930 million.

But the odds of walking away with almost a billion dollars in the bank aren’t in the players’ favor. Odds of winning the jackpot prize are 1 in 292 million.

But players do have decent odds of winning a smaller prize. The odds of winning any Powerball prize are 1 in 25.

Nationally, over the past year, Powerball has produced 316 second-tier winners of $1 million or $2 million.

Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware Lottery.

Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware Lottery.

Mr. Kirk said that even though it seems enticing to buy many tickets to become a winner, even of a lower level prize, everyone should only purchase what they can afford.

“This is brand-new territory for all of us, which makes it extremely important that everyone is careful not only to play responsibly themselves, but also to encourage those around them to do the same,” he said.

To have a better chance of winning a portion of the big prize while still playing responsibly, the Delaware Lottery encourages people to start pools with friends, family or co-workers.

Tonight’s drawing will be the 20th since the last grand prize was awarded on Nov. 4, 2015. The winning numbers will be drawn at 10:59 p.m. in Tallahassee, Florida. Results can be found at delottery.com or powerball.com.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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