- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2003

D.C. residents are going nuts over two multistate lotteries offering multimillion dollar jackpots just in time for the new year.

Regular and novice gamblers alike crowded D.C. stores for tickets to tonight’s Powerball jackpot drawing, worth $210 million — much as they did for tickets for last night’s Mega Millions drawing, with a jackpot of $155 million.

“I really, really want to win,” D.C. resident Melchelyn Sloley said after purchasing her Powerball tickets at Sammy’s Liquorin Northeast.

“It’d be nice to pay off bills, take care of the grandkids,” she said. “I play [Powerball] all the time, and I’ve worked so hard all my life. It’d be really nice to win.”

Despite the roughly 1-in-120 million odds of winning the Powerball jackpot, merchants said customers still were flocking to their counters yesterday to buy tickets.

“This line will be nothing compared to [today],” Malio Pacheco, a cashier at Sammy’s, said of yesterday’s crowd. “The line will be out the door. We haven’t sold any liquor all day. We slack up a little, then it picks right back up. Some people, because they play in groups, come in and buy $300 to $400 worth of tickets at a time.”

Mr. Pacheco, who said Sammy’s once sold a winning lottery ticket for $37 million, predicted even longer lines for today.

“Just wait until we open,” he said. “When the jackpot gets big enough, the parking lot will be packed before we open at 9:30 a.m. They’ll be already there waiting.”

Mr. Pacheco also said when jackpots are this large, Sammy’s prints $5 sheets of tickets, then sells them outside the store to thin the line inside.

Johnnie Nealy, 82, of the District, says he has been playing Powerball since it started.

“Just the Powerball, though, no Mega Millions,” he said. “I know I won’t hit, but I’ve been playing for so long that I’ve got to keep playing.”

The largest Powerball jackpot, $314.9 million, was drawn on Christmas Day 2002. The winner was Andrew Whittaker Jr. from Jumping Branch, W.Va.

In the District, there have been 10 grand-prize winners since Powerball replaced Lotto America in 1992. In June, three District residents won $100,000, a D.C. Lottery Board spokesman said. The game is played in 24 states, the District and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

However, Powerball is not played in Maryland, so many people come to the District for tickets.

There were 1,196,961 Powerball winners Saturday, but nobody matched all the numbers to win the jackpot.

Those too eager to wait until today to play Powerball went to Maryland or Virginia to try Mega Millions, which is played in 11 states.

Audley Blake of Brentwood, Md., had no magic numbers in mind, but the huge jackpot was too enticing to ignore.

“I’m just trying to get some money and peace of mind, to have no worries, school my kids and just be happy,” he said.

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