Players chase dueling jackpots

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Jeanette Perez, left, watches while store manager Joan Cerveny prints off Perez’s lottery tickets Friday at Auto Prep Center convenience store in downtown Shawano.

A unique conversion of two jumbo-sized jackpots had Shawano-area lottery players Friday enjoying twice the thrill and dreaming doubly big.

State lottery officials said it was the first time ever that both the Powerball and Mega Millions games offered jackpots surpassing $350 million simultaneously.

“I think it’s exciting,” said April Chalfant, a clerk at Lakeside Mobil convenience store in Cecil, where ticket sales were brisk among gamblers chasing both jackpots.

Powerball normally is the more popular game, Chalfant said, but the phenomenon of two eye-popping prizes side by side was prompting many players to double down, taking their chances on both games. And few people were playing it conservative by purchasing just one or two tickets.

“They buy a lot more,” she said. “They just come in and ask, ‘Did somebody win that yet?’”

Nobody had drawn a winning ticket since April 28 in Mega Millions or since June 10 in Powerball, officials said.

By Friday morning, the jackpots had reached $382 million for Friday night’s Mega Millions drawing and $356 million for Saturday’s drawing in Powerball.

Johnny Reinke, of Bonduel, stuck to his usual routine and purchased just one ticket in each game at Lee’z Gas & Mini Mart in Bonduel. Reinke said he was being realistic about his chances of winning, although he agreed that having two super-sized jackpots was tempting.

“It’s more exciting,” he said. “But I’m not holding out much hope.”

Lottery officials said the odds of winning either Powerball or Mega Millions was greater than one in 200 million. The odds of winning both drawings? One in 75 quadrillion, a concept that even state lottery director Cindy Polzin was having a hard time grasping.

“I don’t know how many zeroes that is,” Polzin said with a laugh.

Polzin said the state was happy to see people enjoying the unique dueling jackpots, but she urged everyone to play responsibly and not overdo it.

At the Auto Prep Center convenience store in downtown Shawano, Jeanette Perez purchased a bundle of tickets in both games using cash she had pooled together with about 30 co-workers at the Menominee Tribal Clinic in Keshena. Calling themselves the “Clinic Millionaire Retirement Club,” the co-workers take up a collection for tickets whenever a lottery jackpot grows big enough.

The group once won $100.

Perez said they generally play Powerball, but they agreed to purchase tickets in Mega Millions this time, too. She admitted that the double jackpot chances were enticing.

“Double the fun,” she said.

Employees at Auto Prep Center celebrated earlier this summer when a customer purchased a lottery ticket that won $200,000.

Joan Cerveny, the store’s longtime manager, said she has never seen Powerball and Mega Millions both drawing so much interest at the same time. Cerveny said many first-time lottery players were buying tickets, and regular customers were spending more than usual.

Cerveny said the $200,000 winner and other recent winners have buoyed hopes that the store’s lucky streak would continue with one of the current jackpots.

“There’s always that chance,” she said. “You can never say it’s never going to happen to you.”