For the fifth time in as many months, someone in Ventura County bought the winning SuperLotto ticket.
The lone winner of Wednesday's $10-million jackpot, who has yet to step forward, bought the ticket at a 7-Eleven store in Oxnard on Channel Islands Boulevard near Rice Avenue.
Welcome to the bandwagon.
Wednesday's win means this sleepy county by the sea has sold more winning SuperLotto tickets this year than anywhere else in the state. Statistically speaking, the county should churn out only about two winners a year.
But we're talking luck here. Not math.
And Ventura County's winning ways in 1998 have lottery officials at a loss.
"This is outrageous," local lottery spokesman Stephen Freund said. "Hey, we live on the Gold Coast. You gotta' be lucky."
Since the SuperLotto drawings began Oct. 3, 1985, only nine of California's 58 counties--all with larger populations--have sold more winning tickets than Ventura County's 27, lottery statistics show.
Moreover, you would have to drive clear to Wells Fargo Country Store in Baker to find a lottery retailer as lucky as Allan's Wine and Lotto in Port Hueneme.
Both stores have sold five winners since SuperLotto began.
But luck has been sparse at Allan's, which hasn't sold a SuperLotto winner since 1996.
"We're overdue," declares Allan's manager, Shelly Crick. "Maybe we'll be No. 6."
Allan's luck might just have moved down the road to the Oxnard 7-Eleven, where Wednesday's winning ticket was purchased. It's the same store that sold Dolores Trejo of Oxnard a SuperLotto ticket worth $34 million in January 1997.
"We're lucky," ecstatic store employee Mohinder Kaur said Thursday. "We're the new, lucky, popular store."
But as any die-hard gambler will concede, luck runs dry.
Just check with San Francisco, a similarly sized county that last year had a string of six winners in seven months.
The number of winners in San Francisco County this year: 0.
Ventura County residents this year have cashed in SuperLotto tickets worth nearly $54 million. Not bad, considering county residents have only spent a combined $12.1 million this year trying to claim a SuperLotto jackpot.
But even fiddling with lottery sales statistics for the year doesn't shed much light.
Is it that Ventura County residents are just buying more tickets than in other counties, and therefore winning more?
No such luck.
Through the week ending April 25, the most recent California Lottery sales statistics available, Ventura County--the state's 12th most populous county--has averaged No. 11 in lottery sales statewide.
The typical resident has spent on average about $1.30 weekly on SuperLotto tickets.
The result: five winners.
"I'm quitting my job and moving down there," said Cathy Doyle Johnston, a spokeswoman in the lottery's Sacramento headquarters.
Placing first in per capita sales every week this year is tiny Alpine County--population 1,200, and the proud keeper of just one lottery machine.
There, nestled high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains between Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe, the typical person has spent about $6 a week on SuperLotto tickets since January.
The result: No one has ever won SuperLotto in Alpine County.
Ventura County's lottery streak began in mid-January, when James Hayes, a 35-year-old security guard supervisor, learned he had won $19 million.
A month later, local newspaper editor Burton Swope, 52, won $3 million.
On April 8, Yolanda Starr, a homemaker in the posh Ventura Keys neighborhood, took home $16.9 million--a third of the second-largest jackpot in SuperLotto history.
And just 1 1/2 weeks ago, Al and Janet Shusta of Oxnard split a $20-million jackpot with a San Fernando Valley man.
When the latest mystery winner steps forward, she or he can claim $10 million.
There is, in all likelihood, no good reason for Ventura County's streak of luck.
The lottery is all about luck, and lots of it, lottery officials say.
SuperLotto players have about a one in 18 million chance of picking the winning six numbers.
Odds are better that an asteroid will strike Earth--a one in a million chance--or that you will be struck by lightning, about a one in 600,000 chance, statisticians say.
Still, that doesn't keep people from lining up at places like Allan's Wine and Lotto, which until about six years ago, before it got its reputation for spitting out winners, was known as Allan's Wine and Spirits
"I think what it is, is that our [sales] volume is so high," store manager Crick said. "But people being superstitious doesn't hurt either. If they want to think this is a lucky store, I'm going to let them. I think it's lucky too."