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Excitement builds as Powerball jackpot soars to $500 million

Excitement builds as Powerball jackpot soars to $500 million
Customers line up to buy Powerball tickets at the Bluebird Liquor store in Hawthorne, considered one of the luckiest lottery retailers in California, in March 2012 when the jackpot topped $540 million. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Powerball lottery jackpot grew to $500 million Wednesday, but El Niño rains scared away all but the most loyal and superstitious of lottery customers, according to some store owners.

At Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne, a shop with a reputation for lottery luck, employee Eduardo Duran said ticket lines usually go out the door for nine-figure jackpots.

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This wasn't the case on Wednesday, however, as rains hammered the Southland.

"It's got a nice flow, but it's not busy like usual because of the rain. No one wants to stand outside," he said.

Still, Duran said hundreds of customers have purchased tickets in the last few days, and the most superstitious among them have made sure to touch the store's bluebird statue for luck, Duran said with a laugh.

"Everybody is just smiling and trying to get that extra $500 million after the holidays," Duran said.

No one has won a Powerball jackpot since Nov. 4, when a single ticket purchased in Tennessee had the winning numbers, California lottery officials said.

Wednesday's estimated jackpot is the fourth-largest of all time and the biggest since last February, when three tickets won a $564.1 million prize.

An employee at the Country Store in Baker, not far from Primm Valley and the Nevada border, said business there was expected to pick up in the afternoon. State lottery officials say Nevada residents flood the store for big jackpots. The employee said the wait was expected to be as long as two hours by the afternoon.

At Allan's Market Wine & Lotto in Port Hueneme, listed as the luckiest store in the state by the California Lottery, store owner Nizar Asaad said that every time there's a break in the rain a line forms outside the store.

On Wednesday, one person bought $600 worth of tickets for a work pool, he said.

"Things are definitely heating up," said state lottery spokesman Alex Traverso.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

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