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Powerball hits $145 million

June 29, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The jackpot for tonight's Powerball drawing has reached $145 million and could climb above $200 million by Saturday if no one picks the winning numbers, according to the West Virginia Lottery.

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The jackpot came close to dropping back to $10 million last weekend when a lottery ticket sold at a Berkeley County gas station missed the jackpot by one number, state lottery spokeswoman Kari Safford said.

A ticket sold at Marlow's Texaco station in Falling Waters, W.Va., was one of three tickets sold in West Virginia that came within a number of making their owners millionaires, Safford said.

The owner of the ticket sold in Falling Waters has not come forward yet to claim the $300,000 prize for matching all but one number, Safford said.

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While demand for Powerball tickets has not reached the frenzy generated by last year's record $295 million jackpot, state lottery spokeswoman Nancy Bulla said sales are dictated by the size of the prize.

"As the jackpot goes up, so do the sales," Bulla said.

The Powerball machine at Marlow's was doing steady business Tuesday evening as would-be millionaires from West Virginia and nearby states plunked down $1 per ticket.

Jerry Kimberley, 60, of Frederick, Md., bought 125 tickets for the chance to "make a lot of people in my family very happy."

"I play it periodically, usually when it gets up around $30 (million) or $40 million," Kimberley said.

Chuck Hensler, 52, said he normally buys his Powerball tickets in Weirton, W.Va., but he had a change of plans because he is visiting his daughter in Hagerstown this week.

A faithful Powerball player, Hensler said he has played twice a week every week since West Virginia began offering the game in 1992.

What would he do with $145 million?

"It would be hard for anybody to find me," Hensler said.

Bob Mull, 47, of Chambersburg, Pa., said he purchased 10 tickets for himself and another 110 for his co-workers at Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa.

"I'd take a nice long vacation," Mull said about his plans for the winnings.

Ticket sales in West Virginia have been averaging $1.5 million each week but spiked to $3.2 million last week when the jackpot hit the $100 million mark, Bulla said.

With a record jackpot on the line last year, Bulla said West Virginia retailers sold $15.7 million in tickets during the last week of July.

"When the jackpot is so high, we see a lot more people from other states who don't normally play the lottery," Bulla said.

This is the sixth time the Powerball jackpot has topped $100 million since the game started in West Virginia.

Powerball, which is offered in 20 states and Washington, D.C., requires players to correctly choose five numbers from a pool of 49 and a sixth number from a pool of 42. Odds of winning the game are one in 80 million.

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