Oklahomans Have Powerball Fever: $1.5 Billion At Stake In Record Jackpot

Wednesday, January 13th 2016, 12:51 pm
By: Grant Hermes

“You might as well play…can't win if you don't play,” Luther Shoals said Wednesday morning after buying several Powerball tickets at a local gas station.

Luther was joined by several other lotto hopefuls just before the lunch hour rush. It’s something that’s become a norm for the small Conoco station off Kelly Ave. in Oklahoma City.

Oklahomans everywhere have Powerball fever. With the total topping out at $1.5 billion it's the largest jackpot in American history. Despite the after-tax pay out of $660 million, many say it’s too good to pass up.

The odds of winning aren't great, only one in 292.2 million. Experts say buying more than one ticket won't help. While the opportunity to pick the winning numbers goes up with each ticket, your odds of actually winning go down.

They also say don’t put faith in “lucky” numbers. Statistics show you should avoid picking birthdays or anniversaries and opt for the computer picks instead. Although some, like retired soldier Freddie Carter who smiled through his beard when he agreed that he chose a mix of science and superstition. 

“A combination of my U.S. Army number, birthday and then a combination of an analysis of the previously drawn winning numbers,” he said.

But it's not all fun and games. Businesses in Oklahoma actually lose on the lotto. Sellers only get 6 cents a ticket and don't get any winnings if they sell “the big one.” Rex Rogers said his small gas station has also seen a decrease in side business due to long lines and customers only coming in for lotto tickets instead of goods.

It can also be dangerous for businesses and employees. Oklahoma is a cash only lottery and many shops are full up making for lucrative targets for would be robbers. Rogers said his small station had stepped up security and cash transfers since the jackpot began creeping towards record heights.

“We've got security. You can't see them but we've got security here during this time,” he said.

When it comes to the winnings, financial advisors say it’s better to take the annuity pay out rather than the lump sum. The average payout will last 29 years and work out to roughly $16 million per year. 

“I'd buy my mom a house, buy me a house [and] probably invest the rest. Make it work for me for the rest of my life,” Shoals said.

Winners who choose the annuity make about 20 percent more in cash over time. The jackpot also goes towards a winner’s estate, should the winner die before all the money is given out. Experts also say it can prevent the winnings from being “blown” too quickly, which has become a common story among past winners.

“Me and the grandson have been talking about a trip to Paris,” Brad Hunt said after getting his numbers. “I think Paris is on the agenda first anyway.”

Others, however, were a little more frugal with their hypothetical winnings.

“Pay off all my family's debts. I got a daughter, three grandkids, I'd put something away for them.” Carter said.

If there is no winner Wednesday, estimates show the jackpot could rise above $2 billion, setting yet another record. Sales of tickets for Wednesday night’s drawing are stopped at 8:59 p.m.