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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2001

$54 million prize fuels flood of dreams across the state

BY KATE MORAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

At Johnny's on the Spot in Oregon, owner Doug Brummett tried to hasten a line that stretched nearly to the door, beckoning customers to another register if they were not there to buy a lottery ticket.

No one budged.

Crowds were unusually obstinate at Johnny's - the largest lottery retailer in Lucas County - and other area convenience stores yesterday as customers pursued the $54 million Super Lotto jackpot, the most lucrative in Ohio's history. The drawing will take place at 7:29 p.m. today.

Tickets flew out of stores throughout the state at a rate of $3,600 per minute during yesterday's lunch hour, lottery spokesman Mike Bycko said. The day's sales totaled 1.8 million tickets by late afternoon.

Dreams are cheap - only a dollar - and Robert Thompson of Monroe bought 10 tickets at Barney's Convenience Mart on North Detroit Avenue. “I've got too many,” he said, pulling a wad of Michigan and Ohio tickets out of his pocket.

“He comes in here every day,” Janet Decair, a cashier at Barney's, said of Mr. Thompson. “They owe him a lot of money.”

But the likelihood that Mr. Thompson will get his due this time is only one in 14 million. The probability of being struck by lightning is one in 240,000.

These staggering odds did not discourage Johnny's customer Charles Kisch of East Toledo, who has bought tickets for years, but never won more than a menial sum. “Well, you'll never win unless you play,” Mr. Kisch said.

The $54 million jackpot has drawn a brisk business - with customers coming across the Michigan and Indiana borders for tickets - at a time when sales have been sluggish for lottery vendors in the area.

Abdo Abdouni, the owner of Mike and Dave's Carry Out on Alexis Road, said business has doubled over the past few days, although the $54 million has attracted only a third of the customers he has seen for sumptuous prizes in the past.

“You still see people buying 12 or 15 tickets,” he said. “But we used to get groups coming in to spend hundreds of dollars.” Mr. Abdouni blamed the Michigan casinos and popularity of instant and three-digit games for the decline in lottery sales. “Plus, people are smarter” about the odds, he said.

Dawn Rehm, the assistant manager at Fax Max on Alexis Road, noticed a drop in sales for smaller drawings. “People only play when it gets real big,” she said. “They complain that the chances aren't as good anymore, that it's harder and harder to win.”

Ohio upgraded Super Lotto Plus last July, having players choose six of 49 numbers; previously they had to choose from 47.

The new system might seem to shrink the odds, but Mr. Bycko of the Ohio lottery said the addition of a bonus ball improved a player's probability of winning money even if he misses the jackpot. If the player matches, say, five out of six correct numbers, he has a chance to match the last number with the bonus ball.

Before today's drawing, the state's largest jackpot was a $50 million prize offered in 1990. California holds the record for the largest single state jackpot with $171 million awarded in May.

Sixth on Ohio's list is the $32 million pot claimed by 11 nighttime employees at the Kroger in Perrysburg on June 14, 2000.

“Every time I go to the bank, I still ask the teller to help me because I'm only used to dealing with $100,” said winner Jodi Shepler, who still works at the Kroger to support her extended family. After taxes, she receives $766,000 per year.

Taxes deplete a significant amount of a lottery prize. If someone wins today's $54 million jackpot, it would be paid in installments of $1.8 million over of 30 years - minus the $567,000 removed annually by the federal and state governments. The winner can opt to cash out the prize immediately for $16 million after taxes.



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