Even with the big Powerball game, North Carolina lottery sales are still lagging behind state estimates.
Willie Scott is the state lottery's latest success story.
"I was praying for a financial blessing, and it came," he said.
Scott, a Roxboro father of six who just took a job as a prison guard, won an $800,000 jackpot Wednesday night. He says he does not throw much money in the lottery. In fact, Scott rarely plays.
"I've played the Powerball three times before that," he said.
The state's lottery commission already cut the lottery budget because of lower sales than state lawmakers originally expected. Even with the huge multi-state Powerball game over the last two months, sales are still more than 20 percent below already-reduced expectations. Lottery officials say the summer is always slow.
"Sales are not $100 million a month right now. I think we're at $79 million," said Tom Shaheen, the lottery's executive director. "But we anticipate picking that up in future months."
Outside a Raleigh mini-mart that sells lottery tickets, gardener Stanley Alston says he does not like to play.
"I've worked at several convenience stores, and I just feel like it's a gimmick," he said.
The lower sales numbers have some lottery critics saying the money fluctuates too much to fund ongoing school programs.
"What this says to me is [that it reinforces] what a lot of people were saying before we adopted the lottery, which is lottery revenue is incredibly hard to predict and fluctuates for a wide variety of factors," said Chris Fitzsimmon of N.C. Policy Watch. "The big danger is basing existing programs like More at Four and class-size reduction on money we can't predict."
Lottery officials praised Scott for not spending too much on the numbers game.
"It's always nice to hear that people bought just a couple of tickets," Shaheen said.