November 30, 2012

Powerball windfall means Missouri town has a new millionaire

Well before Missouri Lottery officials confirm who’s splitting this week’s $587.5 million Powerball jackpot, folks here in Dearborn had a pretty good idea. And they were thrilled.

Well before Missouri Lottery officials confirm who’s splitting this week’s $587.5 million Powerball jackpot, folks here in Dearborn had a pretty good idea.

And they were thrilled.

Speculation throughout this northern Platte County town rose almost with the morning and burned cheerier as the day went on.

According to media reports and people in the community, the man who purchased the winning ticket was 52-year-old Mark Hill of Dearborn. Lottery officials would not confirm that, but they have scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Friday at North Platte High School in Dearborn.

“I think they will make wise use of (the winnings),” said Betty Marshall, a neighbor. “It’s quite an adventure having something like this so close.”

Missouri Lottery officials said Thursday that one of the two winning Powerball tickets from Wednesday’s drawing was sold at Trex Mart in Dearborn, a town of about 500 roughly halfway between Kansas City and St. Joseph just off Interstate 29.

The Missouri ticket and another sold in Arizona will split the jackpot.

People in Dearborn were quickly convinced they know the winners, word passing from one neighbor to the next until it fast became a point of civic pride.

“It’s been a rumor throughout the day,” said Cami Wagers, who owns the Cook’s Corner Café. “This is the local gossip hot spot in Dearborn.”

On the Hill family’s block of single-level homes, neighbors have been accustomed to each others’ comings and goings. And the pattern at the Hill house took a noticeable change on Thursday. The usual cars were gone. Someone drove by in the afternoon, picked up a package delivered by UPS and left. And everywhere folks marveled at the notion of one of their own becoming an overnight multimillionaire.

At Trex Mart, the gas station and convenience store that sold the winner, store clerk Kelly Blount said that she couldn’t contain herself when she heard the news.

“It’s been so exciting that I’ve been shaking all morning,” she said.

Ronald Foster, who has lived in Dearborn for all his 78 years, said nothing has ignited the town as much as the news that landed Thursday morning. He took a chance and purchased a ticket, but, alas, not the right one.

“I thought, what the heck, I might win something,” he said. “But it never happened.”

Wednesday night, the store sold more than $2,700 worth of Powerball tickets. Baron Hartell, whose father owns the store and 10 others, said the Dearborn location is one of his top sellers of lottery tickets. From Sunday through Wednesday, the store sold $4,470 worth of Powerball tickets. It normally averages about $735 worth in a week.

“It’s awesome,” Hartell said. “This is something to put us on the map. There are no other notable reasons to be known in Dearborn.”

Hartell said he received a text message from his father about 8 a.m. Thursday that one of their stores had sold a winning ticket. He was disbelieving, but the reality sank in when he arrived at the store later in the morning and met with Missouri Lottery officials confirming what his father had told him.

The Trex Mart has several gas aisles and a Subway franchise inside. The store sells a variety of novelty signs, purses, t-shirts, periodicals, Kansas City Chiefs paraphernalia and Confederate flag license plate tags.

Business was brisk Thursday morning from locals getting gas and lunch and basking in the afterglow of an almost unfathomably big win.

Two Missouri lottery players won $1 million second prizes for matching all five white-ball numbers from last night’s drawing. One of those tickets was sold at the Sunfresh at 2415 N.E. Vivion Road in Kansas City, North. The other was sold at a Casey’s General Store in Joplin.

Around the country, 58 winning tickets scored $1 million, which is the largest number of those prizes awarded, said John Wells, lottery spokesman.

The numbers drawn Wednesday night are 5, 16, 22, 23, 29 and Powerball of 6.

Winners have until May 27 to claim their prizes.

The drawing of Wednesday night’s prize followed 16 consecutive drawings that produced no top winner, boosting the Powerball to become the second-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

Tickets were selling at an average of 130,000 a minute across the United States in the hours before the drawing, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game. That equates to players spending $15.6 million an hour for a chance at the huge jackpot.

The huge sales volume, which was about six times the rate of the week before, prompted game officials to boost the jackpot twice in two days.

Americans went on a ticket-buying spree in recent days, the big money enticing many people who rarely, if ever, play the lottery to purchase a shot at the second-largest payout in U.S. history.

Tuesday’s drawing marked the 27th time a winning Powerball ticket was sold in Missouri. Only Indiana has more winners of the jackpot. In 2010, a convenience store clerk in the mid-Missouri town of Marshall won a $258 million jackpot. Four years earlier, a group of 13 Missouri state employees claimed the $224 million ticket.

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