Tonight's huge Mega Millions jackpot helping already good sales
These tough times might have folks cutting back lots of things, but Keith Longhurst figures lottery tickets will never be one of them.
That's why it's no surprise to him that Michigan Lottery officials say lottery sales are running at a near record pace and are expected to get a boost by tonight's $207 million Mega Millions jackpot.
"We get people in here on unemployment, and they're putting together change just to buy one ticket," said Longhurst, an employee at Party World liquor store, 5568 Alpine Ave. NW in Alpine Township.
Even with Michigan leading the country with 15 percent unemployment, lottery sales have withstood the recession.
Earlier this year, lottery officials in states such as California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa and Kansas saw sales drop as the economy affected discretionary spending.
But as of last week, Michigan's lottery sales reached $2,090,745,797, spokeswoman Andi Brancato said.
Brancato said she thinks sales remain strong because the state offers something for everyone, with games that cost as little as 50 cents to as high as $50.
"There are certainly still people who have discretionary income to spend and some might buy CDs, or go out to eat, or go out to the movies," she said. "Others might buy a lottery ticket."
Lunch-hour lottery sales were brisk Thursday at Party World, a Comstock Park-area store that has sold five winning tickets in the past two years, including three $1 million-plus winners.
Superstitions run so high that most players insist the employees rub their tickets on a dried four-leaf clover found on the store's property and now displayed atop a cash register.
Grand Rapids resident Greg Schlosser was one of many who stopped in to play Mega Millions, hoping to win big in the 13-state lottery known for big jackpots but long odds.
"Here's the winning ticket right here," he joked after picking his numbers.
According to the Mega Millions web site, the odds of winning the jackpot are about 176 million to 1. That compares to a 700,000 to 1 chance of being struck by lightening, according to the National Weather Service.
Today's $207 million jackpot, is tied for the 13th largest since the game's inception in 2002. Of the 89 jackpots so far, eight have been from Michigan.
Larry Tillman owns a restaurant in Grand Rapids but stops at Party World each day to buy scratch-off games and a Mega Millions or Classic Lotto ticket on his way to his Kent City home.
Tillman said some folks might consider it a waste of money, but he figures every ticket is an opportunity.
"Somebody's gonna win, why not me?" he said.
Hitting the jackpot: Year-to-date state lottery sales compared to all of 2008
2009 unaudited figures, as of Aug. 17 (partial year):
- $2,090,745,797 — lottery sales
- $180,119,160 — Mega Millons
- $58,008,209 — Classic Lotto 47
- $668,056,427 — Instants
- $462,623,940 — Club Keno
2008 (entire year):
- $2,330,198,000 — lottery sales
- $184,766,000 — Mega Millions
- $64,129,000 — Classic Lotto 47
- $734,200,000 — Instants
- $526,475,000 — Club Keno
(Click for full-size; opens in new window)Jo Bode, right, of Newago waits in line Thursday to buy Mega Millions lottery tickets at Party World in Alpine Township. Bode hopes to strike it rich a second time. She and her husband, Jim, won a quarter-million dollars playing the lottery in 2005.