Powerball, Mega Millions jackpots draw players to midstate stores

Record millions pull in hopeful customers

jgaines@macon.comMay 18, 2013 

Ben Evans sat on a desk Friday inside the T&A Mart at the corner of Pio Nono and Montpelier avenues, thumbing through a thick stack of Georgia Lottery slips.

“That’s my favorite number right there,” he said, holding up a pick-three ticket bearing “739.”

“Preacher gave me that number,” he said, laughing. “They’re not supposed to play, right?”

Evans plays the lottery every day “trying to win something,” but the big excitement Friday was the huge jackpots for the Powerball and Mega Millions games.

On Friday, the Powerball game reached its highest jackpot in history, an estimated $600 million. The drawing is Saturday night.

Mega Millions, whose numbers were drawn Friday night, rose to about $190 million, according to a news release from Kimberly Starks, media relations manager for the Georgia Lottery Corp.

The odds of winning each jackpot are one in 175 million, Starks said. No one has won the Powerball jackpot since April 3.

Evans said he would have definite plans for the money if he were to win.

“Get out of debt,” he said.

And with the millions left over?

“I’d get my whole family out of debt,” Evans said.

At age 83, he doesn’t drink or smoke and said he has no other vices. But he plays every lottery game every chance he gets. Evans said he’d feel pretty awful if his favorite number came up the one day he didn’t play.

“I spend this every day, because I know where it’s going,” he said.

Proceeds from all Georgia Lottery games, including Powerball and Mega Millions, are used to fund education such as the HOPE Scholarship and Georgia’s pre-K program.

Gary Patel, manager of the T&A Mart, said Cash 3 and scratch-off tickets are normally the big sellers. Rolls of the various scratch-off games are on prominent display at the store’s front counter, behind a wall of plastic.

But when Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots climb into record territory, business shifts to those games, Patel said. Traffic has been fairly steady -- “not bad, not good” -- since the record jackpot was announced, he said.

To let the regular scratch-off and Cash 3 customers know about the bigger potential payout, Patel said, he put a sign announcing the Mega Millions jackpot on the counter next to the scratch-off games.

The potential pot of gold exercised its allure on Denise and Butch Bennett of Thomasville, who came to Macon on Friday to meet family from Atlanta.

“When it gets huge is the only time we play,” Denise Bennett said. “We don’t play every week, just when it gets really big.”

The Bennetts stopped at the Citgo station on Hardeman Avenue, just off Interstate 75, to grab their chance at a fortune.

“Whenever somebody says, like ‘$500 million,’ I’m like ‘Oh, yeah, let me buy a ticket,’” Butch Bennett said.

Kristian Griffin joined the Bennetts in line for a shot at the big bucks. But should the lucky numbers fall to him, Griffin said, he would share Evans’ generous attitude.

“That much money ain’t meant for no one person,” Griffin said. “Got to help people when you win that kind of money.”

Telegraph photographer Grant Blankenship contributed to this story. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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