Annette Santello, 76, walked timidly to the Villa Park Pharmacy’s Lotto booth, a quaint wooden contraption containing Leo Brodsky, 70, and his little black Lotto box, and slapped down a dollar for a Quick Pick.
“This is the first I ever played,” she said, flashing a rueful grin at Brodsky, who was churning out Lotto tickets like dollar bills at a mint. She poked a forefinger at him and said, “I don’t believe in gambling.”
But there she was just the same on Friday, lured like thousands of others across the state by the record-breaking payoff tonight that could top $60 million. Santello’s dream is to win enough money to pay her ailing brother’s medical bills. She decided to wager her dollar after she heard about the jackpot on the evening news.
The stage for the enormous jackpot was set on Wednesday when--for the fourth time in a row--Lotto players failed to pick the six numbers between 1 and 49 that would have paid a jackpot, which by then topped $33.4 million.
“Everybody’s talking about it,” said Vicki Halverson, an office assistant in the California Lottery’s Orange County office. “They’re going to buy houses for themselves, or their mothers or their sisters or their brothers. And they’re going to give a lot to charity. Charity is going to be so well off.”
When no one wins a jackpot, the money is “rolled over” to the next drawing--in this case tonight’s--and 20 cents is added from each ticket sold before the drawing deadline. The rest goes to smaller prizes, to education and to administrative costs.
Lottery officials said that according to their projections, those sales, which totaled about $54 million by 3 p.m. Friday, are expected to exceed $125 million by the cutoff time at 7:45 tonight. The televised drawing will take place 11 minutes and 56 seconds after that.
“It’s going crazy,” said Bob Taylor, a spokesman for the California Lottery in Sacramento. “It looks like we’re going to get the record.”
Taylor said that the sales were running well ahead of the figures in early June when the old California jackpot record of $51.4 million was set. That was a world record at the time, but it has since been topped in Florida, where a jackpot of $55.16 million was won last month.
California Lottery Director Chon Gutierrez said that because of the increased demand, retailers were being permitted to sell Lotto 6/49 tickets until 11 p.m. on Friday, one hour later than usual.
Retailers interviewed statewide from among the more than 7,200 who sell Lotto tickets agreed that sales were booming--and apparently attracting a lot of new players.
“We opened the door this morning, and here they came,” said Bruce Klein, owner of a small downtown Los Angeles gift shop where customers were queuing up to buy Lotto 6/49 tickets on Friday. “It’s been constant ever since.”
At Miles Turquist’s 7-Eleven store in Truckee, atop the High Sierra near Donner Pass, the waiting Lotto players “were lined up, wrapped most of the way around the store,” Turquist said.
“It’s been like this all day,” Turquist added. “We’ll probably sell $25,000 to $30,000 worth today.”
For Brodsky, Friday was shaping up nicely. With all the publicity about the enormous jackpot, he estimated he had taken in more than $5,000 by 1:30 p.m.
And he knew just how to handle the hopeful hordes, who came streaming into his cheerful pharmacy.
To one woman who asked, “You think I’ll win this time?” Brodsky replied, “This is the time for you.”
By 6 p.m., Brodsky said, “it got wild. Boy, it was a day-and-a-half.”
Brodsky should know. He’s one of the biggest Lotto retailers around. A year ago last July, he even won a plaque from the California Lottery for ringing up more Lotto sales that month than any other retailer in the state.
“I tell them each one is going to win, and promise them and be nice,” Brodsky said.
One customer, he said, has been betting the number of her home phone for a year.
“She said, ‘Leo, what should I do? I never win’
“I said, ‘You gotta do something.’
“So this morning she phones, and she says, ‘Leo, I did something. I changed my telephone number.’ ”
Times staff writer Eric Malnic contributed to this story.
PLAYING LOTTO 6/49 Tonight’s Lotto Jackpot $57.0 million
Times: Sales close at 7:40 p.m. Tonight’s winning numbers broadcast at 7:58 p.m. on KTTV, Channel 11, and KGTV, Channel 10.
Last Wednesday’s Jackpot
Wednesday Winners Per Category
No. Winners Prizes Each 6 of 6 0 0 5 of 6 plus bonus 9 $416,160 5 of 6 518 $3,725 4 of 6 31,597 $55 3 of 6 594,176 $5