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POWER Hungry

South Boston News
A steady stream of customers purchased Powerball tickets yesterday at the Centerville Apple Mart. / November 29, 2012
Wednesday was not your average day behind the counter at convenience markets, grocery stores and other locations where lottery tickets are sold.

Nothing like a half-billion dollar plus Powerball jackpot to drum up business.

“My dad told me to buy some tickets because that’s what he did,” said first-time lottery ticket buyer Michael Cooper, in town working on a utility project for Dominion. Cooper, a West Virginia resident, bought his first-ever lottery ticket Wednesday afternoon at the Apple Market in Centerville.

“Just trying my luck, I guess,” said Cooper, who paused a moment when asked what he would do if he won the grand prize — $550 million and rising as of yesterday.

“Quit my job and buy a house, or something,” he replied.

Powerball mania brought a steady stream of customers through the doors of Apple Mart, with a steady line forming at the lottery ticket counter. Assistant store manager Pam Rowland said it had been that way all day: “We have people who don’t know how to play who are playing this. They ask a lot of questions.”

It’s actually quite simple to get one’s name in the running for the prize drawing, which was set to take place Wednesday night at 10:59 p.m. The process is as follows: get in line, fork over $2 per ticket, then wait to see if your number is drawn from among the millions of tickets sold around the U.S.

“All the doctors and lawyers come out and play when it’s like this,” cracked one Apple Mart clerk.

Over at Smiley’s convenience store on U.S. 58 east of South Boston, owner Sam Patel waited on a steady trickle of mid-day customers, but he said the real action would come later in the afternoon as people got off work. With ticket sales continuing through 10 o’clock last night, time was growing short for customers to take a last shot at becoming an instant multi-millionaire.

“It’s like a last showdown,” said Patel, who estimated the buzz over Powerball has doubled his usual lottery ticket sales.

Last night’s drawing was the 17th since Oct. 6, when the jackpot was reset following the sale of the last winning ticket. With 16 dud drawings since then, the lottery haul has grown exponentially, rising by more than $200 million since Saturday alone.

The Multi-State Lottery Association, which administers Powerball, said tickets were selling at a rate of more than 100,000 per minute on Tuesday. The jackpot is likely to wind up being the second-largest ever, after the $656 million MegaMillions award in February 2012.

At the Apple Mart, Rowland said the richest ticket ever sold there was a $100,000 Virginia Lottery winner from earlier in the year. Memories of that lucky strike haven’t faded away among the employees and some of the customers filing into the store.

“They think it’s an omen,” she said.

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