Originally created 01/24/98

Hopefuls line up for Lotto Jackpot



With the Georgia Lotto jackpot of $11 million at its highest since May, lottery retailers all over the state were expecting a busy day today.

The largest Lotto jackpot was $28 million in November 1994 and last May it jumped to $16 million. That may make this week's jackpot look like a drop in the bucket, but it was still enough to reel in some Georgians who hoped to capture the purse.

"Somebody's got to win it and I'm just as good as the next guy," said Jack Johnson, who was purchasing a Lotto ticket Friday at Mildred Goolsby Convenience Store on 13th Street in Augusta. "I want to be rich. I'm tired of working for somebody else."

Lines were wrapped around candy racks at the Smile gasoline station on Reynolds Street as lottery players tried their luck at the $11 million jackpot and other games.

The lines will probably be even longer today as time winds down for the big giveaway, predicted Sheryl Chappell, a store cashier.

"It always gets busy when the lotto is high," she said. "Some people don't play until it gets high. They'll ask what the jackpot is and if it's low, they won't buy a ticket. They've been playing for this $11 million because they know they can live off that."

Lotto Georgia and the Big Game do approximately the same sales each week but sales increase when there's a bigger jackpot, said Rebecca Paul, president and chief executive of Georgia Lottery Corp. This week's Big Game jackpot was only $5 million.

"Lotto Georgia will certainly outsell the Big Game this week," she said. "The higher the jackpot, the more we sell."

As of Thursday night, Lotto sales already were at about $800,000 compared with about $700,000 the same time last week. Total Lotto sales last week were about $3 million but were expected to top out around $3.2 million this week, lottery officials said Friday. Most sales -- 80 percent -- are made between Friday afternoon and Saturday night.

Some retailers said Friday the rush for tickets had begun by midweek.

"We have some that come in every five weeks and then some come in every week to buy tickets, but when it's this high they come in more often and buy more," said Wanda Thurmond, a clerk at State Line Package store in Dillard, near the North Carolina border. "They think they have a better chance if they buy more."

At the Suwannee Swifty store in Valdosta, Vernell Garcia, 42, said $11 million was worth trying her luck.

"I don't usually play, but I'll buy two this week with it being $11 million and all," said Ms. Garcia. "Everybody wants the money."

The drawing for the Big Game is on Friday nights and the Georgia Lotto is drawn on Saturday nights.

Staff Writer Willie Mae Worthey contributed to this article.