Powerball frenzy sets world record; locals share how they'd spend winnings

Wednesday’s Powerball drawing is expected to top $1.5 billion, making it the all-time largest lottery payout in history.

Unknown, but likely a world record too, is the number of people buying Powerball tickets.

Officially, the odds of winnings are 1 in 293 million. The one-time payoff before taxes would be $930 million. The one-time take home in South Carolina would be $496.62 million after federal and state taxes.

“That’s too much money for one person,” said Linda Ewing of the record jackpot, while waiting to buy a Powerball ticket at a 7-Eleven store on Cherry Road.

If she wins, Ewing said she would take care of family and her children and still have lots of money to donate to others for their basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing.

Her daughter, 9-year-old Kaitlyn, said some of the winning money should go to the Wounded Warrior project.

John Johnson said he, too, would help his extended family and then he would travel the world “until my time comes.”

Among those not playing is Winthrop University professor Thomas Polaski. He is chairman of the university’s department of mathematics.

“The odds of winning are so small it’s not worth the investment,” he said.

The feeding frenzy induced by the billion-dollar jackpot shows people’s inability to deal with large and small numbers, Polaski said. The large numbers are the payout and the people playing, the small number the chance of winning. The large number of people playing also increases the odds of multiple people winning the jackpot.

“But,” he said, “people still want to believe there is a chance.”

Polaski offered a slight way to increase one’s chances of winning – play the numbers that have already been or were recently drawn. “People don’t believe they will happened again, but those numbers are no more, no less likely to be drawn.”

Polaski said the lottery hoopla makes it fun and it’s “interesting to dream but if you want to make money you will be sorely disappointed.”

According to S.C. lottery officials, seven players in the state fell one number short of winning the numbers in Saturday’s $950 million jackpot.

On Saturday, a record 269,000 players in South Carolina won prizes ranging from $4 to $150,000, according to lottery officials.

The state also set a record for Powerball ticket sales at $21 million. Typically, the state sells about $1.1 million in Powerball sales.

A new sales record is expected when the Powerball numbers are drawn Wednesday night.

Don Worthington: 803-329-4066, @rhherald_donw

What $496.62 million buys these days

Many people have said they would like to help their community if they won Wednesday’s Powerball lottery. What could the estimated take-home, after-tax winnings of $496.62 million fund in York County?

Education: Pay off recent and projected school bond debt in Fort Mill, Lancaster and Rock Hill school districts of about $462 million, and still have $34.62 million.

Healthcare: Build the long-litigated Fort Mill Hospital, about $150 million, and still have $346.62 million.

Economic Development: Build two Knowledge Park size projects – an estimated investment of $200 million each, not including public funds – and still have $96.62 million. Or fund the $300 million Catawba film studio project and still have $196.62 million.

Recreation: Build 82 parks similar to downtown Rock Hill’s Fountain Park with a working water fountain and still have $4.62 million.

Transportation: Almost fund the “Pennies for Progress” road program. Through three rounds, Pennies projects have cost about $508 million. Extend Dave Lyle Boulevard to Lancaster County counting at an estimated $250 million, and still have $246.62 million. Or build the trolley from Winthrop University to downtown Rock Hill and fund it for 30 years, and still have $440.62 million.

Pet adoptions: Sponsor 6.4 million adoptions at the local animal shelters.