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‘Lottomania’ Sweeps State as Tonight’s Jackpot Nears World Record $60 Million

Times Staff Writer

“Lottomania” swept the state Friday as Californians scrambled to buy tickets for a jackpot payoff tonight that could top $60 million, which, according to lottery officials, would be a new world record.

“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.”

“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.”

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.

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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 approximately $54 million by 3 p.m. Friday, are expected to exceed $125 million by the cutoff time at 7:45 p.m. today. The televised drawing will take place 11 minutes and 56 seconds after that.

Taylor said Friday that the sales--spurred to “lottomania” by the promise of record payoffs--were running well ahead of the figures early last 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.

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Retailers interviewed from among the more than 7,200 who sell lotto tickets statewide agreed that sales were booming--and apparently attracting a lot of new players.

“It’s a lot busier than usual, maybe three times the sales we usually get on a Friday,” said Richie Whalen, manager of Bob’s Market on Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica. “We’re getting a lot of rookies, people who have never done it before.”

Whalen said the “rookies” were holding up the waiting line at the Lotto 6/49 machine that vends the tickets “because they aren’t used to it. They really slow things down.”

Machine Broke Down

Things were slowed at Mark’s Valley Drugs in Sherman Oaks because the machine broke.

“People didn’t like that too much. They got mad,” said Sandra Battigelli, a clerk at the drugstore on Van Nuys Boulevard. “We finally got it fixed, at about 1:30 (p.m.). People were happy again.”

At Miles Turquist’s 7-11 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,” said Turquist, who sells more tickets than any other retailer in the California.

“It’s been like this all day,” Turquist added. “We’ll probably sell $25,000 to $30,000 worth today.”

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Lotto officials said Turquist’s business excels because thousands of players from the Reno area in Nevada, where there is no lottery, cross the nearby state line on Interstate 80 each week to play Lotto 6/49 at his store.


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