AMBLER, Pa. — Brenda Sepulveda stopped Friday at a suburban Philadelphia convenience store to buy lottery tickets as the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots soared to some of their heftiest in the history of the games.
“I think that people are drawn to this kind of lottery because we all hope and pray that we might be the lucky one, that maybe we weren’t born into wealth, but you never know," she said, as she dreamed of paying off student loans, and her and her mother's cars.
The Mega Millions jackpot for Friday night’s drawing has grown to $560 million, with a cash option of $281.1 million. That's the seventh-highest it has ever been.
Meanwhile, the Powerball jackpot for Saturday’s drawing has grown to an estimated $875 million — the third-highest. Ticket buyers have a chance at either $875 million paid out in yearly increments or a $441.9 million one-time lump sum before taxes.
Yet the games have raised concerns among some experts. Their abysmal odds — 1 in 292.2 million for Powerball — are designed to build big prizes that draw more players.
The largest Powerball jackpot was $2.04 billion Powerball last November.
But the last time someone won the Powerball jackpot was April 19 for a $252.6 million prize. And there hasn’t been a Mega Millions jackpot winner since April 18.
Lia Nower, a professor and the director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University, said the lottery has historically acted as a regressive tax on the poor, meaning the people that can least afford to lose their money buy the most tickets.
She said her “concern with lottery is really more people who are buying it every day or two or three times a week" as opposed to those who purchase one ticket as the jackpot nears $1 billion.
And those frequent buyers were pouring into a store in Crystal, Minnesota, said clerk Elias Harv.
“Like, it's never been before like this,” Harv said. “They come two to three times a day.”
“Everybody has his own dream," he added.
Back at the convenience store in the Philadelphia suburb of Ambler, Barbara Green had no illusions she would nab the top prize. But still she couldn't resist the possibility.
“Everybody has hope, so if I get a little bit, I’m satisfied,” she said, laughing. “I’m not getting the big thing, I know that, but I like to get a little bit of it. Everybody does.”
This story has been updated to correct the day of the week Brenda Sepulveda bought lottery tickets. She purchased them Friday, not Thursday.