PORTLAND — For $2, buying a chance for Wednesday night’s Powerball jackpot provides a little bit of hope, said Steve Trott, 50, of Portland, who bought five tickets Monday at Joe’s Smoke Shop on Congress Street.
And sometimes, hope comes with reckless promises.
“We are going to be rich,” Trott told the workers at Joe’s Smoke Shop, promising to share his wealth with them if he won. “I’m going to buy the store. You guys can retire. I’m going to turn it into a parking lot — Trott’s Parking Lot.”
After no one won Saturday’s $325 million Powerball drawing, Wednesday’s $500 million jackpot will be the 42-state game’s biggest ever, eclipsing the previous record of $365 million, which was won in 2006 by a group of eight workers at ConAgra Foods in Lincoln, Neb.
Mega Millions holds the record for the highest lottery prize ever — three ticket buyers split a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot eight months ago. The current Powerball jackpot is the second highest lottery pot ever.
A winning ticket for a Powerball jackpot has never been sold in Maine. Still, the lure of unimaginable wealth is hard to resist.
Tracy Tuttle, 49, of Portland, bought tickets on Monday for the first time since January.
“If I win the Powerball, it would be the best Christmas present ever,” she said.
Steve Discatio, part-owner of Joe’s Smoke Shop, said he expects to see a big increase in lottery ticket sales as the 9:50 p.m. Wednesday deadline approaches for buying tickets. He said a lot of his customers won’t buy tickets when the jackpot is smaller — such as a mere $40 million, the minimum advertised jackpot.
“They tell me that all the time,” he said, shaking his head. “They must have that much already.”
The Powerball lottery, which is managed by the Multi-State Lottery Association, is played in 42 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The big jackpot is driving up sales. Mainers on Monday spent more than $200,000 on Powerball tickets, a huge increase from the $43,000 they spent the previous Monday, according to Tim Poulin, deputy director of Maine State Lottery.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, Mainers spent $22 million on Powerball tickets and $165 million on the state’s instant scratch games. For every dollar in lottery sales, the state earns 32 cents.
The success of groups that band together to buy lottery tickets, such as the food workers in Nebraska, has created more interest in such groups, said Paul Sottery (rhymes with lottery), who manages a 30-member group called The Millionaires Club.
Sottery, who works as territory manager for the Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland, said the club consists of co-workers and former co-workers. People pay $10 a month to join the club, and he uses the money to buy lottery tickets.
He spends any modest winnings to buy more tickets.
“Someone is going to win, why not us?” he said.
He buys tickets every week, no matter the size of the jackpot. Even when the jackpot increases, the odds of winning remain the same, he said.
The odds of getting that lucky, however, are 1 in 175 million, according to the Powerball website.
It’s a lot easier to be unlucky. For instance, the odds of being struck by lightning in any given year are 1 in 1 million, according to the National Weather Service. The odds of being attacked by a shark in the United States are 1 in 11.5 million, according to the United States Lifeguard Association.
Chad Vinkemulder, 48, of Portland, said his wife would be the biggest winner if he won.
“I would not have any right to complain to my wife about, well, anything she spends money on,” he said.
Sue Rohling, 65, of Portland, who bought one Powerball ticket, along with cold medicine and a box of tissues, couldn’t think of a logical explanation for spending the money, but did it anyway.
“Why the heck not?” she asked.
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: