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Sales brisk as Powerball jackpot hits $100 million

February 29, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

BERKELEY COUNTY - With a $100 million top prize tonight, Powerball players in West Virginia and elsewhere are hoping the Leap Year will also be a jump-for-joy year.

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West Virginia is one of 20 states that participate in Powerball, a multistate lottery in which the jackpot can reach nine figures. The District of Columbia is also included.

The jackpot for tonight's drawing is $100 million, if the winner takes the money in 25 annual payments. If the winner wants a lump-sum payment, he or she will get $51.2 million before taxes are taken out.

The federal tax is 28 percent and the West Virginia state tax is 6.5 percent, according to Nancy Bulla, the public relations and drawing manager for the West Virginia Lottery. So the net windfall if a West Virginia resident were the sole winner tonight and chose a lump-sum payment would be about $33.5 million.

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The odds of winning the jackpot are about 1 in 80 million. A player must match the numbers on five white balls out of 49 and on one red ball out of 42. Smaller prizes are offered for fewer matches.

The top prize has soared to $100 million because no one has won any of the last 14 drawings, said Doug Orr, a spokesman for the Multi-State Lottery Association in Iowa, which runs Powerball and other lottery games.

Maryland to the north and Virginia to the south are not Powerball states, so would-be millionaires were crossing the border into West Virginia on Tuesday to play.

Steve Hedrick, a facilities technician at Rubbermaid in Winchester, Va., was at the State Line Market on U.S. 11, in the southern tip of Berkeley County. He was the designated ticket buyer for a group of seven employees who have been playing for almost two years and have won only about $100.

If they win the top prize this time, their working days are over - but not right away, said Hedrick, a Bunker Hill. W.Va., resident. "We may sit around and wait till they start asking us to do things."

Another Powerball customer, Ed Schray, a factory technician, refused to speculate on new luxuries. "There's no sense worrying about it till you have it," he said.

Charles Quadlio, a foreman for a contractor, said if he wins, "I'll just be rich."

He said the staggering prize money inspired him to buy a ticket for the first time in about six months.

The State Line Market has had a good track record in Powerball, said Bonnie Potts, who has worked there for 16 years.

She said the small store has sold three tickets that paid $100,000, which is the prize for matching five out of six numbers. Two winners were local residents; the third person never cashed in his or her ticket, she said.

It was a busier scene later in the evening at the 7-Eleven on U.S. 11, the closest store in that area to the Maryland border.

Lucious Alexander of Hagerstown, who works for the U.S. Postal Service in Washington, D.C., said his winnings would pay for a trip for his five children, ages 6 to 12.

Jackpot or not, once school is finished, "We're going to Disney World," Alexander said.

Five employees at Mack Trucks in Hagerstown won about $130 last week in Powerball. One more correct number would have earned them $100,000, said Richard Barnhart of Hagerstown, who was buying tickets for the group.

If they win, "We're all going to leave work," Barnhart said. "We're all going to retire."

Dayna Etheridge, who was selling tickets at a steady clip at 7-Eleven Tuesday night, has been working there for only about a week. But she said winning the money would get her to stop working, too.

Her list of potential indulgences was longer than most.

"I'm having a baby," said Etheridge, whose boyfriend bought tickets for the couple. "I'd buy my own house. I wouldn't rent anymore. And I'd buy a Lexus."

Then, she added two more wishes: a Humvee for her boyfriend and a horse ranch for herself.

The highest jackpot in U.S. lottery history was a $295 million Powerball prize awarded in July 1998, Bulla said.

There have been six top winners in West Virginia, including Roger Boone of Lewisburg in Greenbrier County, who won almost $24 million.

Bryant Kelley, a college student from Buckhannon in Upshur County, was nearly the seventh, Bulla said. He matched five numbers out of six last Saturday and won $100,000.

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