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Crowds Swamp Lottery Outlets

VALLEY NEWS

Jackpot: Thousands across the Southland wait in long lines to buy tickets after the payout reaches $89 million.

March 04, 2001|NEDRA RHONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Visions of early retirement, luxury cars and philanthropic pursuits danced in the heads of Angelenos hoping to win big in Saturday's Super Lotto Plus drawing.

Dream-seekers clogged sidewalks, illegally parked and occasionally lost their tempers as they waited hours to purchase a ticket for Saturday's $89-million jackpot.

"It's a madhouse, a zoo!" said Ronnie Mason, the security guard at the door of Bluebird Liquors, one of the region's most popular ticket retailers. A crowd began forming outside the store at 5:30 a.m., 90 minutes before it opened.

"I thought I can sleep in or get up," said Tim Laviano, 27. "At least this way I have a chance at becoming a millionaire."

Laviano drove 45 minutes from Orange County to the Hawthorne store because he heard it was lucky. Arriving at 11:30 a.m., he waited 90 minutes to buy $10 worth of tickets.

"Thank goodness this only happens once a year," said Mason, directing the two lines at Bluebird.

But this actually happens less often. The jackpot was the third-largest in the history of the California State Lottery, spokeswoman Norma Minas said. The largest was $118 million in 1991 and the second-largest was $104 million in 1998.

Although the winning numbers were drawn at 8:59 p.m. Saturday, lottery officials will not know if there are any winners until this morning.

At George's Liquor store in Chinatown, lines were not as long, but a steady stream of ticket buyers kept the store's two machines ticking. "Usually, they buy $10," owner Tony Chang said. "Today, they are buying $20 to $50."

By lunchtime, the 7-Eleven store on Sherman Way in Canoga Park had issued four times the usual number of lottery tickets sold on a typical day, manager Surinder Kumar said.

If he sells the winning ticket, Kumar said he will take a nice vacation and start a new life with his store's percentage of the winnings.

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The $89-million jackpot was calculated based on past lottery trends and hourly tracking of actual ticket sales, Minas said. The amount an individual wins depends on the number of winning tickets.

Some thought they could beat the odds.

"I have a strategy," said Brenda Smith, 42, waiting in line at Bluebird with two of her children. "I go to different spots to buy my lottery tickets."

Smith toted a clear plastic binder bursting with dogeared tickets on which she writes store locations and numeric combinations for future tickets.

For Sarah Cornell, a customer at a 7-Eleven on Winnetka Avenue in Canoga Park, playing the lottery is a hobby. "I don't drink or smoke," she said, "so it's one of my vices--gambling occasionally."

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Times staff writer Sabrina Decker contributed to this article.

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