• Numbers are drawn in nearly $580 million Powerball jackpot

    By: WSBTV.com web staff


    ATLANTA - Powerball fever has struck north Georgia as people across the Atlanta metro flock to stores to buy their lottery tickets as the Powerball jackpot grew to nearly $580 million Wednesday.

    The jackpot is a new record to the multi-state lottery game, which was drawn Wednesday night.

    The winning numbers were: 5-23-16-22-29 and the Powerball is 6.

    Earlier in the day, Channel 2's Dave Huddleston found the big jackpot brought out people who normally don't buy lottery tickets.

    Huddleston stopped at a convenience store in Smyrna, where officials said they sold more than $1,000 worth of Powerball tickets before noon.

    Theresa Thomas bought her very first ticket Wednesday.

    "I don't know, never really thought about it. But this time with the 5, 0, 0, kind of gets your attention," Thomas said, before the jackpot was raised to $550 million. "I mean with all the commercials and talk everywhere about the $500 million, you can't help but want to join in, even though I've never bought a ticket before."

    Thomas is not the only one with big dreams. Karen Hendrix, of Douglasville told Huddleston she knows she's going to win.

    "I'm feeling so lucky. I already told people at work I will not be in tomorrow, and you'll know why. I'm not sick," Hendrix said.

    The hard reality is the chances of winning Powerball are 175 million to one, according to statisticians. Powerball is played in 42 states.

    Crossing state lines for tickets

    Thousands of Alabama residents are flooding across the state line into Georgia to buy up Powerball tickets and a chance at the jackpot worth more than half a billion dollars.

    The Ricky Mart convenience store, just off the first Georgia Interstate 20 exit from Alabama, usually gets a big influx of people when the lottery gets large.

    The store opened two registers and the lines snaked back through aisles of candy and crackers.

    "Crazy," said Ricky Mart employee Lori Bell. "It's been crazy, and it's been that way since Sunday."

    Alabama does not have Powerball or a lottery of any kind, so people from as far away as Birmingham drive to Tallapoosa to buy tickets.

    "This is the closest place that is from where we live," said Anniston, Ala. resident Charles Turner. He drove to Haralson County with his son Craig. "It's something that's great, something that's exciting, and I like it. I'm excited about it, and hopefully the numbers will fall."

    Dexter White drove over from Gadsden. He understands all the long lines.

    "It's too close, and they know the value of $500 million," said White. "Automatically, I become one of the richest men in America."

    But Bell said the huge volume of customers isn't really translating into more money for the store. She said most people are spending all their money on tickets and not much else.

    "It's like everybody's buying the tickets, and we have very few that just need gas or maybe a drink," said Bell.



    Powerball jackpot means big money for students

    With the record-breaking Powerball jackpot, that means a great deal of money will be going to students across the state in the form of the HOPE Scholarship and pre-K funding.

    "You feel guilty about it on a tight budget, single mother. I can't spend money on tickets, but when it's $500 million, you have got to spend money on it," said Powerball player Heather Ratliff.

    Channel 2's Lori Geary talked to players who said they know the odds are that they won't come close to winning, but it helps knowing the money is going to Georgia's popular HOPE and pre-K programs.

    According to Georgia Lottery officials, while instant games pay out more prize money, 40 cents of every dollar spent on Powerball tickets sold in Georgia go to HOPE and pre-K. Half goes to prize money, and 10 cents go to retailers and operating expenses.

    Through Tuesday, the Powerball jackpot alone generated $11.5 million for HOPE and pre-K.

    Officials told Geary that's about 2 percent of the budget estimate needed for the programs this year, which are expected to total $577 million.

    "Considering I was a beneficiary of the HOPE, I'm proud to support it," Powerball player Jazmine Brite said.

    Georgia Lottery officials told Geary that so far, Powerball tickets sales have paid for 6,200 HOPE awards and almost 1,100 pre-K spots.

    Those numbers do not include Wednesday's sales numbers.



    Duo creates contract over Powerball tickets

    Channel 2's Erica Byfield found many people are trying to increase their odds of winning the lottery by joining an office pool.

    In DeKalb County, Byfield found one group of workers are taking extra precautions to make sure things go smoothly if they win.

    That extra step included making a contract.

    When it comes down to it, everyone's wants to win. Some let the computer pick their numbers, but others, like Kelly Davis and Katie Price, decided to pick their own numbers.

    "(It was) something fun to do and the idea of possibly winning is cool," Price said.

    "Our boss at work decided it would be fun and went in on a pool together," Davis said.

    So Davis and Price said they collected the money from the seven people that wanted in.

    The duo said they charted out which numbers everyone wanted. But the organizing didn't stop there, they created a written contact.

    "We thought that it would be great to have something in writing. We are all a great team, but we put it all in writing, and that way if anything happens, we'll get to share in the greatness," Davis said.

    "You have to know the rules," attorney Howard Stopeck said.

    Stopeck represented a dozen taxi drivers, who won a large lotto jackpot in 2001, and they got into a bitter legal battle with other taxi drivers about winnings.

    Stopeck said one way to keep yourself out of the courtroom is to follow Davis and Price's lead and write something down.

    "Whatever you agree, that's what you do. You have to have it nailed down. You can't just let someone be in charge because someone gets greedy and then you have to sue them and lawyers make money. I made money and I worked pretty hard to do (it)," Stopeck said.

    If Price and Davis' group wins they'll split the money seven ways and each get about $71 million.


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