Powerball's $550 million too much for some Pittsburghers to resist

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Jeri Mann stopped at a 7-Eleven Downtown this morning to pick up coffee, donuts and a chance at becoming a multimillionaire overnight.

"Everyone's playing it, so why not?" the 67-year-old retired South Side resident said she told herself after a workout at the YMCA.

She rarely plays the lottery, but with a $550 million jackpot on the line, she did today.

Lottery purchases soar thanks to Powerball jackpot

Pittsburghers headed out in droves to buy Powerball tickets and a chance at a jackpot in excess of $500 million. (Video by Nate Guidry; 11/28/2012)

Powerball has been the biggest game in town -- and throughout the 42 states, plus Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the lottery is held -- in the last few hours and days, with millions putting in their bid to win the second-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

PG VIDEO

That jackpot number -- which jumped to $550 million this afternoon -- was enough to persuade Ms. Mann to play her hand.

"I very seldom, if ever, play the lottery, but I figured what the heck, you know, for $2, I'll try it," she said.

She had lots of company, with employees at stores selling lottery tickets Downtown and on the South Side reporting a steady stream of customers since Sunday.

In Pennsylvania, there was $64 million in Powerball and Powerplay sales through noon Tuesday, with sales volume coming in at $6,700 per minute around mid-day Tuesday, according to the Pennsylvania Lottery.

The jackpot has gotten so big because the Powerball has gone without a winner through 15 consecutive drawings held since Oct. 6, but Powerball officials said there is a 75 percent chance that the winning combinations will be chosen at the 11 p.m. drawing tonight.

The odds of winning are 1 in 175 million, but Paul Woods, 63, of the North Side, thinks one of the three tickets he purchased at Liberty News, Downtown, this morning could be the winner.

"You gotta be optimistic," he said.

He's beaten the odds before. He fought in the Vietnam War, and in 1979, he won $15,000 in a lottery game. Back then, as he remembers, the odds of winning that lottery game were 1 in 20,000.

A $2 lottery ticket might not yield a fortune, but it will buy a few hours of daydreaming about how that money could transform a life, and Mr. Woods has thought about what he'd do with his winnings, which would be $360.2 million before taxes if he took the cash option rather than the $550 million annuity.

He'd donate the money to charity, especially to cancer groups, since that's what his mother died from. He'd open a place for homeless veterans to stay, then use the rest to take care of his children and grandchildren.

His chances tonight may be slim, but he still put down $6 for three tickets.

"You can't win it if you ain't in it," he said. "And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

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This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/ First Published November 28, 2012 8:45 PM


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