It’s a 1 in 292.2 million shot to win $1.5 billion — but that’s not stopping San Luis Obispo residents from flocking to local gas stations and liquor stores in hopes of purchasing a life-changing Powerball ticket.
“I’d say about 1 in 3 customers coming in are here for them,” cashier Ellen Kuhnle said at Edna Valley Market in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday. “It’s been pretty crazy.”
Powerball made history this week and fueled a ticket-buying frenzy across its 44 participating states as the jackpot surpassed $1 billion Saturday, followed by an unsuccessful drawing in which no ticket matched all six numbers.
By Tuesday, the prize had grown to a record-breaking $1.5 billion — the world’s largest-ever lottery jackpot. And it is predicted to grow even more before Wednesday’s drawing if ticket sales continue to exceed expectations.
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(With) $1.5 billion? I’d buy an island and a small military and I’d check out of the world.
Mark Snider, San Luis Obispo
Kuhnle and her fellow attendants were kept busy throughout the day Tuesday as person after person filed in to buy a $2 Powerball ticket.
“One winning Powerball ticket, please,” San Luis Obispo resident Ryan Harris said as he approached the cash register to buy his first-ever lottery ticket.
“I’m just caught up in the frenzy,” he said. “$1.5 billion seems like, why not take a $2 risk?”
If he won, Harris said he would quit his day job as an attorney and use the money to kick-start “forward-thinking” companies.
“If I really won $1.5 billion, I’d try to make a difference with it,” he said.
Other players also said they planned to quit their jobs if they won the historic prize.
“I would probably quit my job and buy a bunch of bathing suits and live on an island,” Erin Pierno of Avila Beach said after buying two tickets.
Mark Snider of San Luis Obispo also said he would use his winnings to live on an island, though his plan was slightly different.
“$1.5 billion? I’d buy an island and a small military, and I’d check out of the world,” Snider said with a laugh.
1 in 292.2 million Chances of buying a winning Powerball ticket
Brad Ligget had what he called a “super boring answer” for how he’d spend the $1.5 billion jackpot.
“I’d set up trusts for all of my relatives, all of my brothers and sisters and give them the maximum amount I can give them without being taxed, which is $14,000 per year, and just continually give that into trust for them,” he said, noting that he is an attorney and used to practice estate planning. “My wife and I figured it out: For all of our brothers and sisters and their kids, it’d be about $1 million per year. And that’s not bad, to feel like you are doing something.”
Ligget said he’d also buy a Tesla car and a house with his remaining winnings.
Even if the 10 tickets he bought Tuesday don’t turn out to be the winning numbers, Ligget has an additional shot at earning some lottery cash: He lent his friend, Justin Hall, $2 to buy a ticket Tuesday, and he is asking for $1 million “in interest” if Hall wins, plus the $2 back.
“That’s all I ask,” Ligget said with a laugh.
If you win
The winner can choose whether to take the $1.5 billion prize in annual payments over 29 years or as a lump sum of $930 million. Whoever wins will have to pay 39.6 percent of the prize in federal income taxes, plus any applicable state tax. California does not tax lottery winnings.
In California, the business that sells the winning ticket also gets a bonus equal to about 0.5 percent of the prize, though that bonus is limited to a maximum of $1 million, according to the California Lottery website.