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Big Jackpot Brings Out Upper Valley Lottery Lovers

Shawn Impey, of Royalton, jokes with Jake’s Market Manager Dave Hunt after buying two Powerball tickets in Hartford Village yesterday."Me and the wife never play this thing," Impey said, but when they saw nobody won on Saturday, they decided to try their luck. "They'll be writing about us next week when we win the the thing," he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Shawn Impey, of Royalton, jokes with Jake’s Market Manager Dave Hunt after buying two Powerball tickets in Hartford Village yesterday."Me and the wife never play this thing," Impey said, but when they saw nobody won on Saturday, they decided to try their luck. "They'll be writing about us next week when we win the the thing," he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Lebanon — Until yesterday, Rob Hebert had never bought a Powerball ticket. But when he heard on the radio that the jackpot had reached $500 million, he thought, “I could use that.”

So he stopped at the Circle K conveinence store in West Lebanon and bought two tickets, one using his daughter’s birthday. His chances of winning are small — 1 in 175 million, actually — and he knows it, and he said he won’t waste too much time daydreaming about what he would do with the money.

“It would change everything,” Hebert said.

The half-billion dollar jackpot is the largest in Powerball’s history — second largest in lottery history — and for the winner who spends $2 on the winning ticket, it would result in quite a return.

Justin Lancaster, of Lebanon, bought a Powerball ticket yesterday morning while he was in Bethel and planned to buy a second one at a different gas station before the drawing tonight. Lancaster only buys tickets when the Powerball jackpot is high — usually $300 million or more.

“It’s fun to do it when it gets exciting, so I feel like I’m participating in society,” Lancaster said. “It’s king of like going to a sports game when you know your team is going to lose.”

Tim Norfolk, a University of Akron mathematics professor, predicts that whoever wins likely would have to share the prize with multiple other winners. And Hebert isn’t the only person who picked his numbers based on a birthday — about 20 percent of ticket purchasers pick their own numbers. Out of 23 random people, there’s a 50-50 chance that at least two of them would have the same birthdays, Norfolk said.

There were winners from Kansas, Maryland and Illinois in March for the Mega Millions world-record jackpot of $656 million.

Powerball tickets doubled in cost to $2 at the beginning of this year, and the lottery saw ticket sales initially drop. But sales revenue has bounced back and have increased by about 35 percent over 2011.

In fiscal year 2012, Powerball sales reached a record $3.96 billion and they are expected to reach $5 billion this year, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association.

There hasn’t been a Powerball winner since Oct. 6. And as time goes on, the jackpot increases. Yesterday morning the jackpot was worth about $425 million and by 5 p.m., Powerball’s website estimated the jackpot is worth is $500 million, with a cash value of only $327.4 million.

Five white balls and one red ball will be drawn at 10:59 tonight.

Powerball sales were up yesterday at the Quechee Mobil Mart, employee Jane Shumway said. During her shift of 4:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Shumway usually sells a handful of Powerball tickets, but yesterday she tallied $149 in ticket sales.

Shumway herself plans to purchase three tickets before tonight’s drawing.

“I can’t not buy one,” she said, adding that if she won, she’d keep her job and would divide the money among herself, family members and the Humane Society.

Tim Pyer, of White River Junction, bought one ticket at the Quechee Mobil Mart yesterday, but that’s not unusual for him. Pyer buys a Powerball ticket once a week, maybe two if the jackpot is high. But he said this time, he’ll stick with just a single ticket. He’s been buying Powerball tickets for about 30 years and he’s only won twice: one ticket produced $4, the other ticket produced $7.

“The jackpot is larger, it keeps the dream alive,” Pyer said.

Joyce Roberts works at the Midway Station in Sharon and by 2 p.m. yesterday she had only sold 10 Powerball tickets. But she said the numbers usually spike on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the numbers are drawn.

Roberts has been buying four Powerball tickets a week for the last 15 years. She won $100 on her first ticket, which was enough to hook her, but she hasn’t won a dollar since.

Her system is that she consistently buys two tickets on Saturday and two tickets on Wednesday, but she won’t purchase additional tickets when the jackpot increases.

“If I can’t win on two tickets, I can’t win on any of them,” Roberts said.

Vicky Cook, of South Royalton, said she sold 75 Powerball tickets on Monday during her shift at Corner Stop Minimart in South Royalton, but she only sold nine tickets during yesterday’s shift. Cook doesn’t buy Powerball tickets, but her husband, Willie, faithfully purchases tickets and like to buy from more than one convenience store because he thinks it improves his chances of winning.

But not everyone could be swayed by the near-record jackpot.

Jason Flint, of Sharon, stopped at the Midway Station in Sharon yesterday, but he didn’t pick up a ticket. He’s bought tickets before when the jackpot was high and he might buy a ticket today before the drawing, but he said he works too hard to throw away his money on a regular basis.

“They say you can’t win if you don’t play, but you can’t lose either,” Flint said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.