Powerball Dreamers Flood 'Lucky' Stores In Los Angeles

Jan 13, 2016
Originally published on January 13, 2016 7:25 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Sorry, St. Louis fans. Maybe you'd have better luck playing the lottery. The next Powerball drawing is tonight at 10:59 Eastern time. This is the drawing for the record-breaking jackpot of about $1.5 billion. People have been lining up around the block to get their tickets at places that are considered to be lucky. We sent NPR's Becky Sullivan to such a spot here in Southern California.

BECKY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Driving up to the Blue Bird Liquor near the LA airport yesterday at 4 o'clock, I saw the line way before I could see the actual store. There were at least 200 people waiting.

SULLIVAN: What's special about this place?

KAY WILLIAMS: Oh, this place - this place is the bomb.

IRIS PLATIRO: There's been a lot of winners, actually, out of there.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, that come out of this place.

PLATIRO: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: So you know what? And if you want to win...

PLATIRO: You've got to rub the blue bird.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, you don't go to places where they've never had a winner.

SULLIVAN: Kay Williams and Iris Platiro have been waiting for an hour and a half. At first, I thought they were friends waiting together. Turned out they'd just been waiting for so long, they'd become buddies.

WILLIAMS: You know what? We're talking Oprah money. So you know what? I can wait. I can wait.

PLATIRO: Yeah.

SULLIVAN: Williams is an elementary school teacher. Platiro works in customs. They've both been here before, and they're here again tonight at the lucky spot to buy the tickets for lottery pools at work.

WILLIAMS: Up on the ceiling and on the walls, they have all the - all the winners that they've had in the past. And if you can't boast that, why even be there? You want to go somewhere where at least you know people have won. That's the smart thing.

SULLIVAN: Williams is right about the inside of the store. Every square inch is covered with winning lottery tickets and those big checks from the California state lottery.

EDUARDO DURAN: 88,000, 227,000, 133,000 - all year long.

SULLIVAN: Eduardo Duran has worked here for a long time. He says the crowds have always been like this.

DURAN: Seven different times, people have become a billionaire at this store. So, you know, people are - people just hear about that. And where else do you hear that from?

SULLIVAN: Duran guesses that about three-quarters of the business at this liquor store comes from lottery tickets. On a day like yesterday, it's obviously even more than that. I wanted to ask an expert the big question - does buying a ticket at a lucky store actually help your odds?

CURTIS BENNETT: Not a bit.

SULLIVAN: Curtis Bennett is a math professor at Loyola Marymount University here in LA. He says there is a simple reason these stores have so many winners.

BENNETT: You know, if a lottery store sells five times as many tickets as some other store, then they're five times more likely to have a winner.

SULLIVAN: Bennett describes the odds of winning tonight's Powerball as the equivalent of picking out a single special poker trip from a stack 613 miles high. That is almost the distance from LA to the Oregon border. That said, the math department at LMU bought a ticket anyway, he says - a single ticket bought at a non-lucky location - the mall down the street. Becky Sullivan, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.