The Dairy Mart on East Reynolds Road in Lexington has been among the top five lottery ticket retailers in Kentucky for years, and Friday a steady stream of hopefuls filed into the store to buy their chances at a historically large jackpot.
Even though ticket holders have a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning the estimated $800 million jackpot, gas stations around Lexington have seen a massive increase in Powerball sales since the jackpot started to climb. Across the state, about 35 tickets were being sold each second Friday afternoon, according to Kentucky Lottery calculations. A standard ticket cost $2.
“Once it gets big like this, you’ve got to give it a shot,” customer Dax Carmickle said.
Eddie White owns the Dairy Mart and has been selling Powerball tickets since the game began. In all those years, he’s never sold as many tickets as he did last week, White said. The store is covered with banners celebrating winning lottery tickets purchased there. The amounts range from $100 to a $1 million winner last year.
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Everyone’s taking the risk. It’s really good for business, it helps out a lot of the gas stations.
Thorntons regional manager Scott Bell
The Dairy Mart is the only retailer in Lexington in Kentucky’s top five lottery ticket sellers, the other four are in the southern part of the state, Kentucky Lottery spokeswoman Sara Westerman said. The names of the other top-selling companies were not released.
White says he does a booming lottery business because he only gets new customers and never loses them.
“They come here because they know they’re going to get a fair shake,” White said.
Dax Carmickle often goes to the Dairy Mart before working the second shift at International Paper.
He usually gets computer-generated numbers for his lottery tickets, but for the special occasion, he used a different system. His strategy was to pick numbers in birthdays of people he knows.
“You can’t win if you don’t play,” Carmickle said.
At the Thorntons on Versailles Road, lottery ticket sales have increased nearly tenfold since the winnings climbed, regional manager Scott Bell said.
“Everyone’s taking the risk,” Bell said. “It’s really good for business, it helps out a lot of the gas stations.”
Retailers make 5 cents off of every $2 lottery ticket sold, and if they sell the winning ticket, they get a bonus of 1 percent of the state’s ticket sales since the last win, Westerman said.
Don Jenkins goes to the Thorntons and plays the lottery every day before his shift at Pepsi-Cola Bottling. Jenkins said the more than $800 million jackpot is impressive, but he’s not picky.
“Anything you get is going to be exciting,” he said. “It’s just the thrill of winning.”
Jenkins said if he won the jackpot, he’d get away from Lexington for a while.
“I’ve been here all my life,” he said. “It’s time to go.”
Casey McCullough said he doesn’t play the lottery very often, but he stopped at the Circle K at the intersection of West Main Street and South Forbes Road Friday.
If he won the big prize, McCullough said he would take care of his family and friends and donate to Shriners Hospital for Children. After that, he said he’d buy a cool car and a house. “You know, all the cool toys.”
“It’s just a lot of money,” he said. “But I’m not particular, $100,000 would be good.”
McCullough said to diversify his chances he would stop and get a ticket at every gas station on his way home.
For Jenkins, it’s not about strategy.
“There ain’t no strategy, you just take a chance,” he said. “But you’ve got a better chance of having a pop machine fall on you.”