Tennessee's first sale of a Powerball jackpot ticket has officials of the Tennessee Lottery hoping there will be more interest in the multi-state game, whose sales in Tennessee have been on the decline since December.
"I think having a Tennessee jackpot winner will excite folks," said Rebecca Paul, president and CEO of the state lottery, referring to Wednesday night's $25.5 million win by a family from South Pittsburg, Tenn.
The large award was shared by Richie and Bobbi Hubbard, Brent and Angel Hubbard, and Brian and Stacey Hubbard. Brent and Brian are Richie's sons from a previous marriage. The family owns Hub City NAPA, an auto parts store in the small Marion County town.
Adding to the excitement, Paul said, is that 12 Tennesseans matched all five of the game's white balls. Usually, that means a payout of $100,000, but five of those winners pocketed a half-million dollars each because they chose the "power play" option, which multiplies the winnings from two to five times.
"All in all, it was a really good day for us," she said.
Winning a large payout was on the mind of Jim Roberts of Gladeville as he bought a few scratch-off lottery tickets at the Raceway gas station in Lebanon.
"But I'm always playing Powerball. I'm glad a Tennessean won it, but I'd be playing it anyway. I keep playing the same numbers, figuring they've got to come up at some time," Roberts said. He noted he had already purchased his tickets for tonight's $10 million drawing.
Paul acknowledged that Powerball sales have declined in recent months, but she noted the game's players have been extraordinarily lucky since the beginning of the year.
Since Dec. 22, there have been 10 jackpot winners. Wednesday's was the largest this year, with $14.7 million, awarded in late January, being the smallest.
Obviously, Paul said, with so many winners in such a short time it means the jackpot never became a mega jackpot, such as the $110 million awarded in May 2004.
When a jackpot gets that high, sales become brisk as the public's attention is focused on the large payouts.
"But it all goes in cycles. When you have so many winners in a row, you know it's going to lead to some huge jackpots in the future. It runs in cycles," Paul said.
According to the lottery official, Powerball sales account for about 5% of the $246 million raised for scholarships and after-school programs between January 2004 and the same month this year. The bulk of the funds was raised through other games, particularly the instant winner games, or "scratch-offs."
"Powerball has done a really good job for us thus far and has been an important part of our ability to raise dollars for education. For its first year of operation we think it's directly on track," she said.