Originally created 08/29/98

Lottery's jackpot worth $20 million



KINGSLAND, Ga. -- Floridians who drive to Georgia for inexpensive gasoline and tobacco found another excuse to visit the Peach State this week.

Lotto Georgia's jackpot is at $20 million, the second-highest in its five-year history, behind a $28 million prize won in November 1994.

Lottery director Rebecca Paul said ticket sales for Saturday's drawing are expected to be three to four times the norm. The jackpot started at $2 million June 6.

"This is only the second time in state history we've been above $20 million," Ms. Paul said.

A $20 million payoff may seem routine to Floridians who have seen jackpots as high as $106.5 million.

But with this week's drawing at $6 million in Florida, Roger Sockman, a spokesman for Florida Lotto, expected residents to cross the state line and buy Georgia lottery tickets.

"People go where the money is," Mr. Sockman said.

Two Jacksonville residents who made a special trip to Kingsland to buy lottery tickets, Baron Rivers and Archie Bennett, said they hope to be millionaires tonight.

They said the better odds -- about 9 million to 1 in Georgia, compared to about 13 million to 1 in Florida -- had little to do with the special trip to buy tickets.

They like playing the Georgia game regardless -- in addition to the Florida lottery.

"Most Georgia people come to Florida every week for the bigger lottery jackpots," Mr. Rivers pointed out.

Both men said they'd take the money in payments over 30 years, even though the state began offering winner the option of a lump-sum payoff last month.

"I'm going to live that long (30 years) if I'm poor, so I think I'll live that long if I'm rich," Mr. Rivers said. "Hopefully, we'll be victorious."

The winners, however, aren't the only ones who will be happy. Retailer who sell the winning ticket will be given $130,000, Ms. Paul said. The state pays the retailer selling an individual winning ticket $10,000, but that amount is rolled over each week until a winner is chosen.

Clint Moore, assistant manager of Cisco Travel Plaza in Kingsland, said employees there are bracing for a crush of customers as the drawing nears.

"Any time (the jackpot) gets up there, you're going to feel it," Mr. Moore said. "We will have plenty of help. We'll have lots of customers."

Increased ticket sales also improve business for gasoline and tobacco products at the store, Mr. Moore said.

Ms. Paul said she couldn't estimate next week's jackpot if a winner isn't drawn, but sales typically increase about 15 percent each week the lottery rolls over.