If conventional wisdom holds, Lake County will break out in Lotto fever today. The Florida Lotto jackpot has grown to $82 million and is expected to tempt residents into throwing down $1 or more for a shot at a fortune.
"It's a great way to waste your money," said Barbara Back, 66, of Eustis, clutching the five tickets she just bought Tuesday at a Publix off U.S. Highway 441.
A stranger pushed a cart past Back and waved her tickets.
"Do you think we'll win?" the woman asked.
"No," Back said with a laugh. "But it sure is fun."
A lucky ticket would cash out the seventh-largest jackpot in the state's Lotto history. Lottery officials expect to sell 46,000 tickets each second during the hour before today's 11 p.m. drawing. An additional 23 kiosks were set up across the state to help meet the demand.
The jackpot has been growing since March 15, and now a lone winner would get a $45 million lump sum or $2.7 million each year for the next three decades, before taxes. Back already planned how to spend the money — she would give a lot to charities and buy a new travel trailer — but she knows it's a long shot. The odds of winning: nearly 23 million to 1.
"That's what happens when the jackpot gets up there," said Rod Moonie, 50, of Orlando.
"The odds are low, but if you want to get struck by lightning, you got to step into the rain. Can't win if you don't play," said Moonie, a tobacco vendor who visits convenience stores across the county every day and sees residents lined up to buy Lotto tickets.
He said he plans to invest $5 tonight.
Any good Lotto craze needs superstitions and strategies. Pick a ticket line and you'll get an array of plans: Some never play the same numbers twice; others save the really lucky combos for the big drawings. Yet others must get tickets from at least two places.
Sonia Yadav runs a Chevron station on U.S. 441 in Eustis with her husband. On Tuesday, she said she had not seen any Lotto lines, but today would be different: "It's been wild before."