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Powerball lottery tickets go on sale in Maine

Aug 2, 2004, 9:55 am

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Eric Moody used to go to New Hampshire to buy Powerball lottery tickets. Now he goes to his neighborhood store.

On Friday, Moody was among the first people to buy Powerball tickets at Joe´s Smoke Shop when they went on sale in Maine for the first time. Moody, 52, knows the odds of winning the jackpot are 120 million to 1, but he likes the huge payouts -- which can be 100 times higher, or even more, than the Tri-State Megabucks lottery.

"Set for life, right? The jackpot is $54 million this weekend, meaning you´d walk away with about $30 million after taxes. I think I could get by," Moody said after buying several tickets.

At noon on Friday, Maine became the 27th state, along with the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to sell Powerball tickets. The first ticket in Maine was sold at a Hannaford supermarket in Bangor, according to lottery officials.

Powerball is known for its large jackpots, which start at $10 million and have gone as high as $315 million. At least three winning tickets bought in New Hampshire over the years have been claimed by Mainers.

In February 2004, a trust out of Portland won a $46 million jackpot. In 2001, Patricia and Erwin Wales of Buxton won $41 million. In 1998, a trust based out of Lewiston claimed a $25.2 million prize payable over 25 years.

At Joe´s Smoke Shop, customers came in during the morning hours in search of tickets, Lou Discatio said from behind the counter. After noon, people sauntered in to buy lottery tickets of all types, including Powerball, but no long line formed.

Discatio said Maine should have started selling Powerball tickets years ago.

"It´ll keep people in Maine instead of going to New Hampshire," he said. "Better we keep the money than give it to New Hampshire."

With the arrival of Powerball, Maine is projecting a 17 percent drop in Megabucks sales in the next year, said Pam Coutts, director of the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations.

But the state expects to make up for the loss by selling about 30 million Powerball tickets through next June. It projects making an additional $9 million overall with Powerball.

By comparison, Megabucks sales in Vermont fell 26 percent after it joined Powerball last July. New Hampshire Megabucks sales fell 20 percent when it began selling Powerball tickets in 1995.

But both states ended up earning more money with both Powerball and Megabucks than with just Megabucks, lottery officials said. Powerball sales in New Hampshire last year were five times greater than Megabucks sales; sales in Vermont were 2.4 times higher.

Maura McCann, marketing director of the New Hampshire Lottery, said New Hampshire expects only a "minimal" loss of sales with Maine joining the Powerball coalition.

Those losses will come from people like Jim Wise, who bought the first Powerball tickets sold at Joe´s Smoke Shop. Wise, who lives in Sanford and works in Portland, usually buys his tickets in Rollinsford, N.H.

It´s convenient that Maine sells Powerball tickets, but it´s nothing to make a fuss over, Wise said.

"As the world turns," he said, "it´s no big deal."

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