Millions would enter, two would win this week’s record $587.5 million Powerball drawing.
Over 500 million Powerball tickets were sold, according to USA TODAY, with countless tickets being purchased by college students.
Playing the lottery is a guilty pleasure for Florida State University student Nelly Sagastume.
“I enjoy scratch-offs but on lucky or special days I like to play the lottery,” Sagastume said.
Alyson Samach, 21, had never played the lottery before this week, but decided to take the plunge with the record jackpot. (In March, the Mega Millions was a record $656 million, which was claimed by three winners.) She said her dad tends to play when the jackpot is relatively high, but it was never a weekly ritual for her family.
“I played with my roommate, who suggested it, and there were a ton of people at the gas station playing,” Samach said, who purchased five $2 tickets in Gainesville, Fla.
Two winning tickets were purchased, one in Arizona and one in Missouri. The Missouri winner has already come forward and will be announced in a press conference later this Friday.
Each winning ticket can be redeemed for about $192 million after taxes. While that number may seem staggering, lotteries generate states about $18 billion a year. The revenues are often used toward funding education and infrastructure projects.
University of Florida senior Andrew Schein, who won $4 off of the Powerball drawing, encouraged fellow students to buy tickets because “the real winner is education.”
Despite those benefits, the lottery system does draw some negative feedback.
“It’s obviously a regressive tax, thus more harmful to society than beneficial, but why not play when the jackpot is that high?” Samach said.
Sagastume’s motivation for participating this week was actually a fortune cookie, not the jackpot.
“Actually I had no idea how much [was in the jackpot],” Sagastume said. “My friend and I got Chinese and my fortune cookie said, ‘Soon you will be on top of the world,’ so my friend said I should play the numbers on the back.”
Samach chose the numbers she played for a more personal reason.
“I used my grandma’s birthday as numbers, and she died over Thanksgiving break,” Samach said.
The dramatic rate of ticket sales for Wednesday’s drawing is unlikely to continue — the state of Ohio, for example, saw a 700% increase in sales Tuesday. More serious fans of lottery and gambling, however, will return, as lottery sales increased nearly 7% in the last year.
“The most I’ve ever won with the lottery is $1,000 and people tell me that my odds of winning again decrease but I don’t care,” Sagastume said. “I like the gamble. Nothing to lose but a few dollars, and if I win back my money I’m still happy.”
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