Zach Canfield said Randy’s One-Stop on U.S. 43 in St. Joseph, Tenn., was a popular place Tuesday, and he expects it to be even more popular today.
Not only does the convenience store provide a variety of items, but it sells lottery tickets.
“They have been buying them all day,” said Canfield, a clerk at the store. “It’s been steady all day (Tuesday). (Today) it will be crazy.”
Dana Keeton saw the same lines of hopeful people at Sledge’s Auto Sales on Chisholm Road in Iron City, Tenn.
“All day, we’ve had people coming in,” Keeton said Tuesday. “There were some lulls, but most of the day, the lines have been steady.”
At times, two cashiers were needed to handle the crowds. It’s expected to be a record payout for the Powerball that will be drawn tonight.
There has not been a Powerball winner since Oct. 6, and the jackpot already has reached a record level for the game. It was first posted at $425 million, but that was revised Tuesday night after steady sales. The jackpot is expect to exceed $500 million by drawing time tonight.
It’s the second-highest jackpot in lottery history, behind the $656 million Mega Millions prize in March.
Quinton Qalls, of Tuscumbia, was trying to stake his claim to the jackpot Tuesday. He bought 30 tickets.
“Me and some people at work went together and bought them,” Qalls said as he left Sledge’s on Tuesday.
He said he’s not like a lot of players who drive to Tennessee each week to purchase lottery tickets.
“I just play when it gets this high,” he said of the jackpot.
Canfield said many lottery customers at Randy’s on Tuesday were buying several tickets.
“They’re buying $20 to $100 in tickets,” he said. “There’s a few buying one or two tickets, but most of them are getting several.”
Debbie Briggum said she played the lottery for the first time last week when it reach $325 million.
“I lived in Missouri for a while and I played it then, but it’s gotten so high I decided to play again,” she said. “My brother lives in Tucson (Ariz.) and he plays. He called to ask if I had a ticket; he said he already had his. So, hopefully, one of us will win.”
Lottery officials said once the jackpot hit $100 million on Oct. 27, ticket sales started to pick up.
When the jackpot reached more than $300 million on Nov. 24, ticket sales during the next four days surpassed $140 million.
“Somewhere around $100 million, those occasional players seem to come back into the stores in droves,” said Terry Rich, CEO of the Iowa Lottery.
“We see a lot of the same people and a lot of new ones,” Keeton said.
Dan Patterson and his friend, Fay Weeks, drove from Cullman to Sledge’s on Tuesday to buy lottery tickets and play some of the scratch-off games.
“We usually go to Ardmore, but we decided to drive up here today for a change,” Patterson said. “We just enjoy the ride.”
Keeton said while the crowds were steady Tuesday, today is will be a rush.
“Saturday (when the jackpot was $325 million) they were lined up to the door,” she said. “(Today), they’ll probably be lined up out the door.”
“I expect it to be crazy around here (today),” Canfield said.
Patterson said he doesn’t get “emotional” about winning or losing.
“If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” he said.
Weeks said she came within one number of winning $250,000 on the lottery several weeks ago.
“I love it. I love to play,” she said.
Powerball is now played in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. Alabama and Mississippi are the only two states in the South that do not have the lottery.
In March, when the Mega Millions skyrocketed, three winners — from Kansas, Illinois and Maryland — hit the right numbers and each collected $218.6 million.
So if any of the local players hit tonight’s jackpot, what would they do?
“I’d pay off my mortgage,” Briggum said.
“I’d get out of debt and then do a lot for my community,” Qalls said. “It would be great to win and be able to help others, to bless those who need to be blessed.”
Patterson said no matter what happens tonight, he’ll likely keep playing the lottery.
“It’s just fun to play. And like they say, you can’t win if you don’t play,” he said.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.