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Looking for those lucky numbers

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Local Powerball outlets are expecting a rush of ticket buyers for Wednesday night's record drawing.

With no ticket claiming Saturday night's jackpot worth an estimated $325 million, Wednesday's jackpot is expected to be worth approximately $425 million, before taxes. The highest previous payout for the lottery -- which is in 42 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands -- was in 2006, when eight employees of a Nebraska meat-packing plant split $365 million.

"With such a large amount of money at stake, people are more apt to join with office groups, social clubs, family or friends to purchase a large pool of tickets together. While having a single winner is great, people also like to see a group share the wealth," Kansas Lottery Director Dennis Wilson said in a news release.

Mike Rupp, Victoria, bought three Powerball tickets Monday at Dillons, 1902 Vine. His wife, Rebecca, regularly plays, buying a couple tickets each time. But Rupp only buys tickets when there is a big jackpot.

"Two hundred million, usually," he said of when he will take a chance.

The Associated Press reported winning the Powerball is a long shot, with odds estimated of 1 in 175 million -- you have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

"Somebody has to win it," Rupp said.

He said you could do "pretty much anything you wanted" with the winnings.

"I don't know what I'd do if I actually won it. I guess I never really expect to win it."

That hasn't stopped people from buying tickets. Tracey Melia, customer service manager at the Dillons location on Vine, said sales were brisk Saturday, and she expects more of the same as it gets closer to Wednesday's drawing.

"Yes, we'll sell a lot of Powerballs," she said. "There's people coming in buying $100 Powerball, $20 Powerball, at one time."

Melia also has noticed people are playing who normally don't. Some customers have come in expecting to pay $1 for a ticket, not realizing the price now is $2.

"We have people that have been buying them that haven't bought them in years," Melia said.

Maja Kern, a clerk at Cerv's West, 2722 Hall, said there has been a rush of ticket buyers.

"People are buying them by the hundreds," she said.

Kern said she has had people tell her they will give her money if they purchase the winning ticket from her, while Melia said ticket buyers have told her they will buy her a car if they hit the winning numbers.

While Melia already has bought herself a Powerball ticket, Kern doesn't plan to play.

"No, I never win," she said.

Rupp, who works as a mechanic at Lewis Toyota-Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, 4400 Vine, knows what he would do Thursday if he hits the lucky numbers Wednesday.

"I'd just pick up my tools and go," he said with a laugh.