FORT MILL -- The doors open and the smell is what doctors say is lethal, but gamblers bathe in anyway: A combination of smoke and dreams of riches.
This is the Lottery Supercenter, near the state line on U.S. 21. Often the top-selling lottery retailer in South Carolina since it opened a few years ago. Now that the Powerball jackpot has reached the titanic number of $230 million for Wednesday night's drawing -- one of the largest jackpots ever -- this place is probably a gambler's lock to be where more dollars are spent for a chance to immediately tell the boss to get lost.
Teresa Hinton ran a busy register around lunchtime Monday. The payout gets this huge, regulars spend three or four times as much on Powerball, and thrill-seekers also give it a shot, Hinton said.
S.C. Education Lottery spokesperson Stephanie Summers Hemminghaus said over the past few years, Powerball sales have spiked as jackpots rose.
When the jackpot was $15 million in a week in mid-January, less than $2 million was spent in South Carolina on Powerball tickets, lottery statistics show. Last week, when the jackpot was $200 million, players in South Carolina bought almost $4.2 million worth of Powerball tickets. Between Thursday and Saturday's drawing, Powerball players across the country in 29 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands spent a whopping $54,090,175.
Nobody won. The jackpot grew.
Lottery Supercenter was busy Monday. Clerk Brittany Price said by Wednesday evening, lines will be "out the door."
Bill Jones of Charlotte, who can buy the same ticket in North Carolina, came to South Carolina. Why? Like all gamblers, he believes in luck. A guy from Charlotte won $88 million in the building next door a few years ago. Maybe luck travels. Jones said he will buy a few Powerball tickets, "but I won't go overboard."
Of the top 10 lottery retailers in South Carolina last year, four were in York County near the state line. Somebody once wrote that the state line is where, "dreams die a dollar at a time."
I know because that somebody was me.
I buy Powerball tickets for almost every Wednesday and Saturday Powerball drawing. I lose every Wednesday and Saturday. The back of the Powerball ticket, written in type smaller than an adjustable rate sub-prime mortgage bound for foreclosure, shows the odds of winning the big one at "1 in 146,107,962."
So what? My odds of being chosen Mr. January for any calendar are worse.
A story out of North Carolina last week said big Powerball jackpots bring out players who rarely buy tickets. The upwardly mobile, the Yuppies. Translation: The boring.
My advice to them: Keep your money. Get in your SUVs, go back to the country club, and leave this to the seasoned pros.
I already know how to lose.