Apr 20, 2004, 7:30 am
Thousands buy chance on $90 million Powerball jackpot, lottery officials say
Powerball is off to a blistering pace.
Lured by tomorrow night's $90 million jackpot in the multistate game, thousands of Tennesseans bought a chance to win the big money yesterday on the first day of Powerball sales in this state.
"By 11:30 (a.m.), we had sales of $200,000 for Powerball tickets," said Rebecca Paul, CEO and president of the Tennessee Lottery.
By 5 p.m., that figure had risen to about $500,000, and few glitches in the lottery's statewide computer system had been reported. "Not bad," was Paul's assessment.
Political leaders attending a Powerball launching party at lottery headquarters yesterday were more expressive.
State House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, said that Tennessee "had done something for the children of the state," referring to millions of dollars in college scholarships that will be awarded. "An educated work force is what we need in Tennessee. It makes taxpayers of these students instead of tax-takers."
State Sen. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, called the day "a landmark in Tennessee history," that "reverses the flow of gambling dollars."
Cohen, a leading proponent of a lottery for many years, said the flow of Tennesseans across the Kentucky border to buy Powerball tickets has been stemmed, while the doorway to the big jackpot has been opened to "Mississippians, Arkansans and Alabamians," whose states do not have their own lotteries.
Indeed, the state lottery's top 10 retailers are along the Alabama border.
Ellie Ambrose, sitting at a table at the Quick Mart at Wendell's Smith Corner, 5300 Charlotte Ave., said she was grateful it's "somebody else who's having to drive for lottery tickets. I don't have to go to Kentucky anymore.
"Now, that's a good thing," she said, in between scratches on dozens of scratch-off cards neatly stacked on the table.
Having Powerball in place is the last major hurdle state lottery officials aimed for in the first year of operation.
"We've been working at breakneck speed to get to this point," Paul said. The first lottery games began in mid-January.
Paul noted Powerball sales are expected to yield about $100 million each year, with about $30 million of the total pledged for scholarships.
Lottery sales were slow yesterday morning at the Belaire Unisex Salon on 513 17th Ave. N., but owner James Sherrell said he was certain it would improve. "I bought the first ticket today. I use my children's birthdays. I've got six, so it works out just right," he said. Players choose a total of six numbers in the game.
"We're really going to push it, because what we're talking about is an education for the kids. I think it's a wonderful opportunity," Sherrell said.
At Wendell Smith's Corner, liquor store clerk Henry Kelton reported interest in Powerball was growing by the hour.
"I'd say by Wednesday night that it will really get going. Now that Powerball's here, a lot of people are going to invest a dollar for a chance to win $90 million. Wouldn't you?"
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