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Florida Lotto fever peaks with tonight's $64 million drawing

Apr 15, 2006, 3:06 pm

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Florida Lottery

Lotto fever heated up Friday in Southwest Florida and the rest of the state as people lined up to take their shot at instant millions.

Tonight's Florida Lottery drawing is estimated to be worth $64 million. The drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m.

This is the 14th largest Lotto jackpot in Florida history. If one winner beats the odds, that person could accept a pretax check of $36 million, or choose to take $2.1 million in each of the next 30 years. Lottery officials expect ticket sales to peak at $28,000 per minute.

Pat Wilcox of Fort Myers was at Publix in the South Trail Shopping Center at 3255 Cleveland Ave. on Friday afternoon. She already bought her $5 worth of tickets, and after years of playing, she hopes this will be the one that changes her life. Wilcox, 73, said she doesn't deviate from her personal $5 limit, no matter how big or small the pot is.

"If it's not a big jackpot, it's mix and match" with Fantasy 5, Wilcox said. "This week, it was all Lotto. All I need is that one ticket."

Convenience stores can see spikes in beverage, candy and snack sales when the demand for lottery tickets soars.

Store officials at Hess at Metro and Ben C. Pratt/Six Mile Cypress parkways said they're ready for the mad rush.

On Wednesday, the Mobil station at U.S. 41 and Daniels Parkway did more than $1,000 worth of Lotto ticket sales the night the jackpot rolled over without a winner, store officials said.

Chuck Lindenmuth, who manages the Mobil on U.S. 41 and College Parkway in south Fort Myers, said sales are beginning to increase steadily heading into today.

"I think we'll see a lot of business with all the people traveling," Lindenmuth said. "People come in for coffee and say 'Anyone win the Lotto? Then they buy a ticket.'"

To avoid potential Lotto lines, retailers say it's best to get tickets as early as possible. Few customers were waiting for tickets at Publix stores and convenience stores Friday afternoon in south Fort Myers and Fort Myers.

The rest of the state is catching Lotto mania as well.

If Sandra Plumber of Miami wins the $64 million Florida Lotto jackpot Saturday, a trip around the world will be the first item she'll scratch off from her list of things to do before she dies.

"Because it's so expensive to do," she said Friday. "I had to put it at the bottom of my list."

Plumber, 49, a legal secretary for a law firm, had compiled her wish list on New Year's Day, which also includes skydiving, swimming with sharks, going on an African safari and even meeting Tom Cruise.

Plumber and other would-be millionaires with grand plans made a dash to lottery retailers across the state Friday with their favorite numbers in hand, while others based their choices on whatever numbers print out from Quick Pick.

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