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Jackpot fever rising in West Virginia

July 19, 1998|By CLYDE FORD and KERRY FRALEY / Staff writers

MARLOWE, W.Va. - Jackpot fever was heating up again in the Tri-State area Friday as the potential prize in today's Powerball lottery drawing neared the $100 million mark.

Larry Bard of St. Thomas, Pa., drove down Interstate 81 to the 7-Eleven in Marlowe, W.Va., to buy 20 tickets for himself, his wife, and his friends at work at Letterkenny Army Depot near Chambersburg, Pa.

"The jackpot's starting to get up there," Bard said.

The jackpot for today's drawing was estimated at $95 million on Friday.

A $195 million jackpot was claimed by a single player in a May drawing for the mult-state Powerball game. That jackpot had players lined up at Eastern Panhandle retailers before the drawing.

Bard said the drive to West Virginia was worth it because he and his friends will have a chance to fantasize about instant wealth. "That's more or less what you're doing because your chances of winning are slim to none," Bard said.

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It's not unusual to see Powerball jackpots in the $60 million to $80 million range, said West Virginia Lottery spokeswoman Nancy Bulla. It is unusual to see jackpots climb above $100 million, she said.

If Saturday's jackpot reaches the $100 million mark, it will be second time that's happened this year, Bulla said.

Madge Harrington, a clerk at the 7-Eleven, said Friday the current jackpot has yet to pack in the big crowds at the Marlowe store. "It's not like the last time, but it's pretty busy," Harrington said.

Shirley Bartles of Falling Waters, W.Va., usually buys one or two Powerball tickets each week. She made her purchase on Friday instead of today because she said she expects a rush of players.

"Probably it'll be lined up like crazy," Bartles said.

Sales are directly tied to the size of the jackpot, Bulla said.

The bigger jackpots draw players to West Virginia from states that don't participate in the Powerball game, she said.

"The good news for West Virginia is all the money played here stays here," Bulla said.

Powerball revenue is earmarked for education, senior citizens and tourism, she said. Players and retailers also have reaped the benefits of growing Powerball sales, she said.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., participate in the Powerball game, she said. Kentucky is the only participant bordering West Virginia.

Gary Emerick, 51, of Falling Waters, beat the lines Thursday afternoon, when he picked up two tickets with a quart of milk at the Marlowe Texaco.

Emerick plays the Powerball every week, whether the jackpot is big or small, he said.

"When it's low, I just do $2 a week. When it gets higher, I probably spend $10, $12, somewhere around there," said Emerick, who said he's not about to blow his life savings on lottery tickets.

Even if he wins the big money, he said he doesn't see his life changing dramatically.

Emerick said he and his wife, Kaye Emerick, would keep working - he in his own home business, she as a cook in Hagerstown.

What would they buy?

"We already have a new house, but probably a bigger one, and invest it. That's what we're doing already anyway," Emerick said.

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