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Long lines for Powerball tickets in California

April 08, 2013|By Kate Mather and Joseph Serna

As Powerball tickets went on sale for the first time in California on Monday, hopeful customers lined up for their shot at becoming millionaires.

Hundreds of people turned to Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne, a local liquor store that has become known for selling winning tickets.

With her Powerball ticket in hand, Gloria Gilbert took the slip of paper -- potentially worth millions -- and rubbed it on the back of a blue bird figurine atop a cigarette display at the liquor store’s counter.

That’s the tradition for Gilbert, 56, whenever she stops at Bluebird Liquor: “Rub the blue bird for luck, and luck comes to you."

But Gilbert isn’t the only one seeing dollar signs at the Hawthorne Boulevard stop. The line stretched out the door all morning, with each customer hoping to hit the Powerball jackpot.

John Apodaca, 62, from Hawthorne, was among them. The Vietnam vet goes to Bluebird Liquor every day. He plays the same numbers every time. He’s there so often that the employees recognize him and give him a military salute.

When Apodaca visits his daughter in New York, he buys Powerball tickets, he said.

Before Monday, California was only one of eight states that didn’t offer the game. The game’s arrival was all Apodaca needed to feel April 8 was his lucky day.

"Because the Powerball came to me,” he said. “I didn’t go to the Powerball this time.”

Monday was the first day Powerball sales officially went on sale in California. The tickets are $2 each and the odds of winning the jackpot -- a minimum of $40 million -- are less than 1 in 175 million.

“As far as business, you can see it’s good,” said Eduardo Duran, working behind the Bluebird counter.

The store sold 8,000 tickets in its first five hours of business Monday. Little pieces of brown paper are posted on the liquor store’s ceiling, each one carrying a name, lotto game and winning amount.

As Duran multi-tasks with the two others working behind the counter, the phone rang.

“Thank you for calling the lucky Bluebird,” Duran answers.

A woman asked how long the wait was to buy a ticket.

“All day,” Duran told her. “We’re going to have a line all day.”

Upping the odds

Powerball becomes the latest lottery game to play in California. How it compares:

Powerball Mega Millions SuperLotto Plus Odds of winning top prize 1 in 175,223,510 1 in 175,711,536 1 in 41,416,353 Odds of winning any prize 1 in 31.85 1 in 39.89 1 in 23 Drawing days Wed., Sat. Tues., Fri. Wed., Sat. Minimum ticket prize $2 $1 $1 Participating locations 43 states, plus D.C.
and Virgin Islands 42 states, plus D.C.
and Virgin Islands California only Minimum jackpot $40 million $12 million $7 million Lottery ticket sales

Sources: California Lottery, Powerball, Mega Millions. Note: Lottery ticket sales chart for fiscal years.

Graphics reporting by Scott J. Wilson


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Twitter: @katemather

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