Powerball, Mega Millions hot ticket in Metro Detroit

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Madison Heights — A record $800 million Powerball prize and a $165 million Mega Millions jackpot have the imaginations of lottery players running wild in Metro Detroit and nationwide.

Tania Perkins of Waterford buys Powerball tickets on Friday at Amori’s Market in Madison Heights.

Count Jack Caldwell among the Metro Detroiters with the itch to be rich.

“I don’t have it all planned out yet, if I win,” the 70-year-old from Madison Heights said Friday after buying lottery tickets at Amori’s Market on John R and 101/2Mile in Madison Heights. “But I’ve got nine grandkids.

“With that much money, I don’t know what you’d do,” he said. “But I know if I won, every one of my grandkids would have a college degree.”

No one has won the Powerball jackpot since early November, which is why the prize in the multi-state game has grown so big. The bigger prize entices more people to buy tickets, and that drives up the jackpot even more. Saturday’s $800 million would be the largest U.S. lottery jackpot ever.

The increased ticket sales also make it more likely there will be a winner, simply because all those extra tickets mean more number combinations are covered.

The Powerball drawing is at 10:59 p.m. Saturday. Winning numbers for the Mega Millions lottery were to have been picked at 11 p.m. Friday.

Beverly Coats, 53, also of Madison Heights, said she had never bought tickets for either lottery game before, but shelled out a few bucks for some Friday.

“I usually only play the three-digit,” she said. “But my boyfriend called me from work and told me, ‘How are you going to let that money go by?’ ”

During Saturday’s drawing, five white balls will be drawn from a drum of 69 numbered balls, and one red Powerball will be drawn from among 26 numbered balls. To win the game’s jackpot, players have to match all six numbers. Tickets are $2 each.

The lucky winner of Saturday’s jackpot could opt to get paid the $800 million prize through annual payments over 29 years or in an estimated $496 million lump sum.

This kind of huge jackpot was just what Multi-State Lottery Association officials hoped for last fall when they changed the odds of matching all the Powerball numbers, from about one in 175 million to one in 292.2 million. By making it harder to win a jackpot, the tougher odds made the ever-larger prizes inevitable.

The game is available in 44 states; Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

To put that in perspective, the odds of hitting the jackpot are about the same as your odds of flipping a quarter and getting heads 28 straight times, said Jeffrey Miecznikowski, associate professor of biostatistics at the University at Buffalo.

“The probability is so small, daresay impossible,” Miecznikowski said. “It’s like trying to count electrons or drops of water in the ocean or grains of sand in the world. We just can’t imagine these types of things.”

Cindy Quick-Wasik, of Macomb Township, buys her power ball tickets at Amoris Market in Madison Heights on Friday January 8, 2015 as she hopes to hit the $800 million Powerball jackpot for Saturday January 9, 2015. (Max Ortiz/The Detroit News)2016

Co-workers Tania Perkins, 37, of Waterford Township and Shynita Williams, 30, of Livonia stopped by Amori’s Market on their lunch hour Friday to buy tickets.

Both work for St. John Providence Health System, and Perkins said they were buying for the office pool, which includes about 25 people. The pool usually buys tickets only for jackpots larger than $300 million, she said.

Perkins said, jokingly, if they do win, then everyone in the pool is going to meet at work Monday morning and take a party bus up to Lansing to collect their winnings from the state lottery department.

She said she wouldn’t quit her job. “I’ll still go to go to work Monday if I win, I just might not be as nice as I usually am,” Perkins said, laughing.

Williams said she would use her share of the pot to fund her little girl’s college fund and maybe start a business. “I’d give a lot of it to the church and different charitable organizations,” she said. “I’d definitely invest some of it, too.”

This weekend’s other multimillion-dollar bonanza — the Mega Millions lottery — began Aug. 31, 1996, as the Big Game. It’s also available in 44 states; Washington, D.C.; and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Players pick six numbers from two pools of numbers — five numbers from 1 to 75 and one number from 1 to 15. They also can let a computer pick the numbers for them. Each ticket is $1.

To win, players must match all six winning numbers in a drawing.

Like Powerball, a winner could choose to get paid the $165 million jackpot through annual payments over 29 years or in one lump sum — an estimated $100 million.

Ticket holders have a 1 in 258.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

Joe Jarbo, owner of Amori’s Market for the past 18 years, said the jumbo jackpots are good for his business.

“There’s a definite increase in traffic in the store,” he said. “More people are coming in, and they’re grabbing things and buying things.”

Business hours for the store don’t change, but the days seem busier and can feel longer for him and his employees, he added.

Like Perkins and Williams, Cindy Quick-Wasik stopped in at Jarbo’s store to buy tickets on her lunch hour. She said she works at McNaughton-McKay, a wholesale distributor of electrical supplies.

She said she doesn’t normally but lottery tickets, but couldn’t resist because the Powerball jackpot is so huge.

If Quick-Wasik wins, the 49-year-old from Macomb Township said she’d start a nonprofit like the Make-A-Wish Foundation or St. Jude to help children who have cancer. “And then I’d quit working, so I could focus on that,” she said.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

The Associated Press contributed.