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$399.4 million Powerball ticket sold in S.C.

By Andrew Shain
ashain@thestate.com

COLUMBIA Fortune struck the Midlands again on Wednesday night with the area’s second big lottery win in four years.

A winning Powerball ticket for the nation’s fifth largest-ever lottery prize, $399.4 million, was bought at a Lexington convenience store.

The Murphy Express on Augusta Road near I-20 sold a ticket that matched all six numbers drawn Wednesday night -- 7-10-22-32-35-Powerball 19.

The winning ticket was bought Wednesday afternoon with numbers chosen at random just hours before the drawing at the 18-month-old station. The winner has not stepped forward.

“This a whole lot of zeros this person will get,” said Paula Harper Bethea, director of the S.C. Education Lottery, during a news conference outside the station Thursday.

The winner can take $233 million in cash or an annuity paid over 29 years for $399.4 million, the S.C. Education Lottery said.

If the winner takes the cash, South Carolina could collect $12 million to $15 million in taxes, Bethea said, which would provide a small boost to the state budget.

Odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1-in-175 million.

The Columbia-region has become a lucky spot for lottery winners. Now $659 million in Powerball jackpots have been won within 20 miles of each other in the past four years.

The $399 million jackpot topped South Carolina’s previous record of the $260 million won in 2009 by Solomon Jackson Jr., who bought his Powerball ticket at a Murphy USA store on Garners Ferry Road in Columbia.

The stations received a $50,000 bonus for selling the jackpot ticket. Murphy stations are corporately owned by the Arkansas-based company.

Wednesday’s winner was the second huge Powerball payout in the past six weeks. A $448 million Powerball prize, the nation’s fourth biggest jackpot, was shared among three winning tickets sold in New Jersey and Minnesota last month.

Jackpots have grown since Powerball doubled the price of tickets to $2 per game in 2012. Seven of Powerball’s 10 biggest jackpots have come since the price hike.

The rising jackpots helped push S.C. lottery sales to a state-record $1.2 billion in 2012-13. Deposits to the lottery’s education fund hit $303 million, the most in seven years. S.C. lottery sales started in 2002.

Rising ticket sales for Powerball and Mega Millions, the other multi-state lottery game sold in South Carolina, help the state lottery because the state takes about half of every dollar earned, Bethea said. The state gets 27 cents from each dollar of scratch-off tickets sales because of print and delivery costs, she said.

South Carolina now has sold 18 winning Powerball tickets worth more than $1 million since going to $2 per game in 2012, lottery officials said. The state had just six total during the previous two years.

Wednesday’s drawing included a $1 million winning ticket bought at a Tiger Express in Hampton in the Lowcountry.

Another $1 million ticket drawn Saturday was sold at the Publix grocery store on North Lake Drive in Columbia -- just 12 miles south from where the big jackpot winner was purchased.

Odds of matching all five white numbers for the $1 million prize are 1-in-5.2 million.

“We really hit the jackpot in South Carolina,” Bethea said.

Lottery sales rise with bigger jackpots -- usually above $200 million -- and after a large win, like the one Wednesday.

Sales were brisk inside the winning Murphy Express station around noon but not everyone was rushing into the convenience store to buy tickets.

Mike Wilson of Lexington, who was getting gas Thursday, said he considers buying lottery tickets a waste. He was at the station on Wednesday, too.

“My wife said, ‘You know the lottery has reached $400 million,’ ” Wilson said. “I said, ‘Good.’ ”

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