By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
PEARL RIVER, La. —
On Monday, lines began forming here at the Riverside Travel Center on Interstate 59 and kept getting longer as the Powerball on Tuesday rolled over to $500 million, a half-billion dollars, the largest Powerball Jackpot ever.
It’s the second largest lottery jackpot ever. Mega Millions holds the record with a $656 million Jackpot won in March.
Riverside, only 15 minutes south of Picayune at I-59’s Exit 5A, , just across the West Pearl River, is where most Pearl River County residents that enter the lottery purchase their lottery tickets. Most of the cars in the parking lot bore Mississippi tags. No pictures were permitted inside the business, but the owner allowed a shot of the business taken from the outside.
One Pearl River County patron, who asked that his name not be used, remarked, as he exited the center after purchasing five tickets, which cost $2 apiece: “The chances are I won’t win; but it’s fun to dream; and how are you gonna win it if you don’t play it.”
If you do buy a ticket, don’t plan on winning, although there is a slim chance you might. The chances of winning the grand prize is 1 in 175 million.
Odds makers say it’s the largest odds in any game of chance, and you have a better chance of being struck by lighting than winning the Powerball. Another patron said, when told of the odds, “Well, if I win Wednesday night, I will probably get struck by lightning on Thursday morning, before I can collect. That’s my luck.”
The drawing is at 9 p.m. Wednesday, tonight, and officials at Riverside said the lottery computers cutoff sharply at 9 p.m. and the drawing is held about three minutes later. That’s central time.
On Monday, Louisiana lottery officials said they sold $900,000 worth of tickets in one day.
If you win, you can take an annuity, for $500 million paid out over 20 years, or a cash settlement for $327.4 million. Most winners take the cash settlement.
Of course, you won’t get that entire amount. The tax man will be there with his hands out.
The federal government keeps 25 percent of the jackpot for federal taxes, and most states withhold from 5 to 7 percent. There’s no withholding in states without a state income tax. If you lived in Texas, you wouldn’t pay any taxes on the winnings, but if you lived in New York City, you’d pay 12 percent in addition to the federal taxes, for a whopping 37 percent assessed in taxes on your winnings.
The Powerball and another national game, Mega Millions, are played in 42 states, and lottery officials say pots now grow larger quicker because the two games are allowed to do what is called cross-selling.
“It really happened when both of these games became national games,” said Terry Rich, CEO of the Iowa Lottery.
It’s not impossible for someone from Picayune or Pearl River County to win a lottery. A Carriere man last year won a $300,000 lottery and said he planned to build his mother a new home with the winnings.
About 7 years ago, a couple who had moved here from New Orleans won a $36 million Powerball grand prize after buying a ticket at RaceTrac in Slidell, La., using a number they got out of a Chinese fortune cookie at a local Picayune restaurant. The winners divided up the proceeds among seven members of their family, and moved away from Picayune, according to those familiar with the situation.
Also, a woman who lived in the Caesar Community won a $2 million Texas lottery Jackpot on a ticket her brother-in-law bought for her on a trip to Texas.
Both Mega Millions and Powerball lottery tickets can be purchased at Riverside.
Mississippi, although rife with casinos, has no state lottery system, although establishing one in the state has been talked about by politicians for years.
Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Mississippi dollars flow into the Louisiana lottery coffers from southwest Mississippi because Mississippi is not in the lottery system.
The $2 proceeds from the sale of a Powerball ticket sees $1 go to the state and $1 to pay for the prizes.
The historic Powerball jackpot of $500 million on Tuesday was all part of a plan lottery officials put in place early this year to build jackpots faster, drive sales and generate more money for states that run the game. Their plan seems to be working, The Associated Press reported.
Powerball tickets doubled in price to $2 each in January, and while the number of tickets sold initially dropped, 2012 sales revenue has increased by about 35 percent over 2011.
“The purpose for the lottery is to generate revenue for the respective states and their beneficiary programs,” said Norm Lingle, chairman of the Powerball Game Group. “High jackpots certainly help the lottery achieve those goals.”
Administrative costs are taken out of the dollar that goes back to the state. Some states designate specific expenditures the lottery proceeds go to, such as education, but others put the money in the general fund.
(News dispatches from the Associated Press were used in compilation of this report.)