With visions of the new home, new car, new clothes and, yes, the new life that $1 million can buy, thousands of longtime and first-time gamblers succumbed to "Lucky Lotto" fever yesterday as the D.C. Lottery game reached its highest payoff in its brief, 16-week history.
The pot, which hit $1 million last Wednesday, and the dream-come-true, goosepimply $40 million just won by a printer in the Illinois lottery combined to spark a sudden interest in Lady Luck: for $1 a shot, and the thrill of wishful thinking, many people were prepared to take a chance or two -- or 10 or 12 -- on last night's Lotto drawing.
Until yesterday, the D.C. Lottery Board reported $40,000 worth of sales for the week. But by 10 p.m. yesterday, the total had reached $239,716, according to a spokeswoman for the board.
The drawing, held at 10:25 last night, produced the numbers 7,14,19,24,33, but lottery officials said they would not be able to determine if anyone selected those numbers until sometime this morning.
"My mom buys lottery tickets all the time, but I am in here today for myself . . . because of the $1 million," said Cathy Talbert, 22, of Alexandria, who dropped in on Century Liquors near the downtown accounting office where she works to buy a ticket. "Everybody is here because of the money."
There was no winner in last Wednesday's weekly Lotto drawing -- where players pick five numbers between 1 and 40 and hope for the best -- and the pot was carried over to this week.
The pool of money available to the eventual winner or winners has climbed steadily since then, though the final payoff won't be known until the D.C. Lottery Board learns later today if the winning numbers were played and, if so, by how many players.
Liquor stores and other Lotto outlets were swamped yesterday with people who lined up to purchase tickets and select their lucky numbers. The run on Lotto, one of the city's three legally sanctioned games, was a welcome change compared to Lotto's first week of operation, when just $30,000 worth of tickets were sold.
Half the money played is available to the players and is used to purchase annuities valued at higher amounts. As of last Wednesday, there was enough money in the pool to buy an annuity worth $1 million, which would be paid out in yearly increments of $50,000 over 20 years.
At Century Liquors, 1912 L St. NW, the Lotto line at one point was 12 persons deep, and people wound around the candy stand and back past the display of Coors.
"This is my first time to buy in D.C.," said Jerry Jenkins, 49, who lives in Rockville and normally buys Maryland lottery tickets. The size of the D.C. pot got his attention this week, said Jenkins, a computer manager.
At Cairo Liquors, 1618 17th St. NW, manager Marty Parish said Lotto sales had doubled from last week to this week. By early afternoon, sales were up to $230, as much as the store sold for the whole day last Wednesday.
"I'd say there were 20 people in line at one point," he said.
The vendor who sells a winning ticket gets a $1,000 bonus above the regular 5 percent commission on total sales.