Andrew Dys

Largest-ever Powerball jackpot fever hits York County

Something special hung in the air Tuesday in every convenience store in York County. A unified look as people stood in lines and waited.

The special look was hope – $500 million worth of hope.

Hope to win the $500 million Powerball jackpot, a half-billion dollars, without a single politician anywhere trying to steal it.

This was not a game of chance. This is money that means the boss who has bugged somebody for 20 years finally gets told off. The collection company that wants its money for overdue bills will get an earful.

But more. This is huge money. Retirement money. Yachts, islands money.

“I will disappear,” said John McLaughlin, buying 20 tickets at Miller’s Produce on S.C. 51 near the state line.

McLaughlin, for money this huge, this massive, had to use something special. No rabbit’s foot. No horseshoe. This Irishman used numbers of football players from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, unbeaten this year.

“The luck of the Irish,” McLaughlin said. “I hope.”

McLaughlin bought his tickets before Keshia Sadler, who said she has parents and in-laws to take care of and the money would more than help. He bought after a guy named Reggie Bruce who vowed to look out for church and charity and countless others if he won half a billion dollars.

“Everybody right here gets some,” said Bruce, pointing at the line waiting to buy tickets.

Every hand went up to accept, and mine was sure first. Reggie Bruce, you win and I am your best friend.

Everywhere tickets were sold Tuesday, there was somebody willing to share the money if that ticket brings magic.

There is a big sign behind the cash register at Rock Hill’s Mr. Express convenience store that proudly proclaims somebody two months ago won $200,000 in the state lottery.

Big money, sure, but nobody talked about a measly 200 grand Tuesday because the only number that mattered was 500 – as in $500 million.

The odds of winning are about 1 in 175 million.

So what?

Players came in and spent $10, $20, $60 or more on tickets for a chance at the largest-ever Powerball jackpot that has so many millions of people across the country playing that the jackpot continues to surge. The jackpot rose Tuesday afternoon from $425 million, simply because of the volume of sales.

A guy playing lotteries 40 years – and losing at the lottery 40 years – by the name of George Brakeall, 87, spent $4 on two tickets.

“The winner,” said Brakeall.

In line after Brakeall, Joel Crosby took a flier on two tickets for $4 that would pay for college for his kids with a lot left over.

“My wife loves to travel,” Crosby said.

Asked where his wife likes to go, Crosby said, “The jackpot is up to $500 million. She can go everywhere.”

He bought his tickets before two sets of guys bought 30 tickets each. The numbers were “quick picks,” where the computer chooses the six numbers.

Carrie Smith bought just one ticket, for $2, and vowed to give the money away to the poor at Pilgrims’ Inn and other places if she wins.

“This would help a lot of people,” she said.

Same thing for Edna Hunter, 87, who said Tuesday’s ticket purchase was just the second ever for her. She sat in the car and sent her son in for the chance of a lifetime.

“Once in a blue moon, it has to be six, seven years since I bought a lottery ticket,” Hunter said. “If this ticket wins, it will help so many people. That’s where I would use the money, for the needy.”

All across York County, tickets were sold at a brisk clip, with even higher numbers expected before the drawing at 10:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Herlong Express near the hospital district on Herlong Avenue was busy, with a throng expected before sales close at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

“Right before the drawing, the place will be jammed,” said Rupal Patel, store owner. “This is not a normal lottery. This is the big one.”

A laughing guy in doctor’s scrubs named Matt Matkovich said he was a physician’s assistant. If he wins the jackpot, Matkovich gave the line of the day concerning his occupation:

“Retired physician’s assistant.”