The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Consumer

November 29, 2012

Historic jackpot: Tickets with winning Powerball numbers sold in Mo., Ariz.

DEARBORN, Mo. — The search is on for the country’s newest multimillionaires, the holders of two tickets that matched all six numbers to split a record $588 million Powerball jackpot.

Lottery officials said Thursday that the winning tickets matching all six numbers were sold at a convenience store in suburban Phoenix and a gas station just off an interstate highway in a small northwestern Missouri town. Neither ticket holder had come forward.

The mystery fueled a giddy mood at the Trex Mart just outside Dearborn, Mo., as lottery officials and the media descended on the town of 500 people.

Cashiers Kristi Williams and Kelly Blount greeted customers with big smiles and questions about whether they had bought the winning ticket. No one had come forward to claim the prize by late Thursday morning, Missouri Lottery officials said.

“It’s just awesome,” Williams said. “It’s so exciting. We can’t even work.”

Karen Meyers, a server at the Cook’s Corner Cafe, where the daily special was roast beef and potatoes, said she didn’t believe it at first when she heard the winning ticket had been sold nearby.

“I think it’s wonderful! I hope someone local won it, not someone just passing through,” she said. “It’s a small town where everyone is really nice.”

Kevin Bryan bought his ticket at the Trex Mart and made an extra trip to his mother’s home in Dearborn to verify that the ticket he left on her counter wasn’t, in fact, the winner.

“When I heard it was sold here in Dearborn I about fell over,” Bryan said, as he hung Christmas lights outside his mother’s home.

He said the only other local lottery win he could remember was when an area farmer won about $100,000 in a scratch-off game years ago “and bought himself a combine.”

The winning ticket sold in Arizona was purchased at a 4 Sons Food Store in Fountain Hills, state lottery officials said. Customers poured into the store, to check their tickets and share in the big moment.

“I think it’s crazy, and I also think it’s great,” said Bob Chebat, who manages the 4 Sons. “I’m glad that all that work yesterday wasn’t for nothing.”

The store was swept up in a nationwide ticket-buying spree preceding Wednesday’s drawing, with the big money enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery to buy a shot at the payout.

Clerks at 4 Sons sold 986 Powerball tickets Wednesday, which Chebat said was well above average.

Baron Hartell, son of the owner of the Missouri store, said if the winner isn’t a local resident  he or she might have been a truck driver. Interstate 29 connects Kansas City to the Canadian border, so it’s a busy thoroughfare in both directions.

“Even the truck drivers who come around, we see them every day, so they all feel like all locals to us,” he said.

Store manager Chris Naurez said business had been “crazy” for Powerball tickets lately and that the store had sold about $27,000 worth of tickets in the past few days.

“This really puts Dearborn on the map,” he said.

Kenny Gilbert, the general manager of Trex Mart, suggested his staff would be sharing in the $50,000 bounty that the store will be awarded for selling one of the winning tickets.

“The response from the owner was, ‘I guess we’ll be able to give out Christmas bonuses,’ ” Gilbert said. “That’s nice, especially at this time of year.”

It wasn’t clear if the tickets had been bought by individuals or groups. Winners have 180 days to claim their share of the prize money.

The numbers drawn Wednesday night were 5, 16, 22, 23, 29. The Powerball was 6. The $587.5 million payout represents the second-largest jackpot in U.S. history.

“If you find you’re holding the winning ticket, be sure you sign the back and put it in a safe place until you can take it to a Missouri Lottery office,” said May Scheve Reardon, executive director of the Missouri Lottery. “You will also want to get some legal and financial advice before you claim.”

Americans went on a ticket-buying spree in the run-up to Wednesday’s drawing.

Tickets sold at a rate of 130,000 a minute nationwide – about six times the volume from a week ago. That pushed the jackpot even higher, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. The jackpot rolled over 16 consecutive times without a winner.

In a Mega Millions drawing in March, three ticket buyers shared a $656 million jackpot. That remains the largest lottery payout of all time.

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