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Quinn Hunter/ The Carolinian

Aaron  Menconi
     Staff Writer

As the Powerball lottery jackpot recently plateaued at $1.5 billion on Jan. 9, the prospect of all that money began to foster students’ hopes for a debt free future.

The North Carolina Education Lottery jackpot (known nationally as the Powerball) inspired players to speculate how they would spend the jackpot, while non-players remained wary of the game’s potentially shady underbelly.

However, UNCG students who purchased tickets seemed to have a common theme among them: that playing presents a definite possibility for life after debt.

The Powerball jackpot reset to $40 million on Nov. 4. And since then, each winner-less drawing on Wednesdays and Saturdays drove that amount to steadily increase.

Former Governor Mike Easley introduced the lottery to North Carolina in 2006 with the North Carolina State Lottery Act. As specified in the legislation, the increasing jackpot draws from a special fund called the North Carolina State Lottery Fund. Its income is primarily revenue from ticket sales and also interest built by the fund itself.

As the jackpot reached its $1.5 billion mark, news of the astronomical amount stirred excitement all across the nation, state and even Greensboro, here on campus. According to Christina, a Greensboro Circle K employee, Powerball ticket sales increased by approximately 75%.

       In the time between the drawings on Jan. 9 and 13, ticket sales nationwide numbered over $635 million.

With increasing ticket sales, Christina said, so did speculations as to what players would buy if they won the grand prize. “[Some] would buy houses; they would buy their family stuff. One guy who’s a regular here said he would run naked to his job.”

Students, too, contemplated the range of possibilities with the grand prize.

Tyler Haithcock, UNCG senior, purchased two tickets. When asked how he would spend the jackpot, Haithcock said that his plan would be to pay off all student, friend and family debt, travel and buy a house.

Morgan Harris, UNCG junior, would use the jackpot to help her parents pay off their house debts and pay any school debts for herself and her brother. After those preliminaries, Harris said she would begin to think about investments and a car.

Some, however, weren’t so confident in the lottery’s integrity.

Kristina McClamrock, UNCG junior, did not buy any tickets after reading that the game might possibly be rigged, which made her anxious.

McClamrock however, isn’t the only one hesitant to buy into the lottery hype.

Washington Post writer Niraj Chokshi, suggests that after a change of rules in October, the whopping $1.5 billion amount was “by design.” The Multi-State Lottery Association, who oversees the Powerball lottery, Chokshi writes, “simply increased the number of white balls” in order to increase the difficulty of winning the jackpot, and “decreased the number of Powerball options to increase the chance to win small.”

While it’s now easier to win a smaller lottery prize — the odds there shifting from 1-in-32 to 1-in-25 — winning the full jackpot is now more difficult, as the odds have shifted from 1-in-175 million to 1-in-292 million.

Controversy at one time also surrounded the North Carolina Education Lottery.

In 2009, Bev Perdue, foreseeing flush input of funds from the lottery, reallocated funds originally designated for education to fill some gaps elsewhere in the state budget. This nearly cost the lottery its ‘Education’ title.

Nevertheless, students buying tickets hoped that they could do well with the winnings. John Lynch, UNCG freshman, bought two tickets in the hopes winning to help his family financially, and would then research what charities would reputably use his donations.

David Feist, UNCG sophomore, when asked what he would do with the jackpot, said he would try his best to live a “fairly normal life,” and set the money aside until he finished school. “The only two significant differences I’d probably make is move out of my folks’ house, and I’d do good by the people who have done me good,” said Feist.

As far who actually did win, the drawing on Jan. 13 bore three winners (alas, none from North Carolina). Lottery officials in California almost immediately announced via Twitter that a winner was somewhere in Chino Hills. Officials announced, too, that winners were also in Munford, Tennessee and Melbourne Beach, Florida.

As of Jan. 15, the Chino Hills winner is still unknown, as the original person to come forward turned out to be a fraud. Florida’s winner is also still unknown, but in Tennessee, John and Lisa Robinson have claimed their portion of the grand prize: $187.2 million after taxes.

The owners of the stores which sold the winning tickets will also receive a tidy bonus for their trouble. Balbir Atwal, the owner of the 7-11 in Chino Hills, received the most for the ticket sale: $1 million presented in the form of an oversized check. The Florida and Tennessee vendors received relatively meager amounts of $100,000 and $25,000, respectively.

With the passing of this event which gripped some and deterred others, one is left wondering if the lottery will ever produce such cosmically far-out jackpots again.

For that, stay tuned to the lottery amount ticker at the local gas station and hold all lucky numbers a closely held secret.

Categories: Greensboro, News, Uncategorized

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