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West Virginia home to plenty of Powerball winners

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia lottery players are on a roll this year, with nine people winning Powerball tickets worth at least $1 million.

While five other states have had more people win $1 million or more, West Virginia is No. 1 per capita, averaging one Powerball ticket worth $1 million for every 200,000 of its 1.8 million residents.

"It's just a lucky streak that we're on that's amazing," said Randy Burnside, a spokesman for the West Virginia Lottery. "Hopefully we'll have a lot more this year."

The odds of winning are the same anywhere Powerball is played. So far this year, there have been 161 Powerball tickets nationwide that have won $1 million, matching the first five numbers in the six-number game.

After Saturday's drawing, only five states sold more of those $1 million-plus tickets than West Virginia, all with much larger populations: New York (19), Florida (17), California (13) and Pennsylvania and Texas (10), said executive director Chuck Strutt of the Urbandale, Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association, which oversees Powerball.

California is the king of the grand-prize winners, selling two of the four Powerball tickets matching all six numbers this year. The others were in Florida and Missouri.

But when taking population into account, West Virginia is No. 1. Vermont, with two Powerball millionaires and 626,630 residents, is second and Louisiana, with seven winners and a population of 4.6 million, was third.

West Virginia's median household income is among the worst in the nation.

"We're just tickled to death to be able to create life-changing money for folks in the state," Burnside said.

Susan Dennis regularly buys lottery tickets at home in West Virginia and when traveling outside the state, but those tickets always seem to come up empty.

"I think I just better stick with West Virginia," she said.

Dennis was among 12 people from a small mattress business in West Virginia to share a $1 million Powerball prize in February.

Powerball rules were changed in early 2012 to help increase jackpots and payouts. The odds of matching the first five numbers in the Powerball game are about 1 in 5 million.

In addition to Powerball, two tickets from the popular Mega Millions game worth at least $1 million have been claimed in West Virginia this year.

West Virginia has had its share of grand-prize winners, too, with eight tickets matching six numbers in Powerball. Among those were Jack Whittaker, a West Virginia contractor who won a nearly $315 million Powerball jackpot in 2002. He quickly fell victim to scandals, lawsuits and personal setbacks.

West Virginia's winners have come from all walks of life and all corners of the state. Three Powerball tickets worth at least $1 million were sold for one drawing May 3, the first time that's happened, Burnside said.

Some of the recent winners have won big more than once. Twins Pam Garretson and Penny Fitzpatrick, of Crab Orchard, who claimed $1 Powerball winnings for the May 3 drawing, shared a $100,000 Powerball prize 12 years ago.

Dennis and her group still play Powerball whenever the jackpot reaches $100 million and planned to buy more for Saturday's drawing, whose jackpot was at $173 million. There were six tickets worth $1 million sold Saturday, but there was no jackpot winner. The prize increased to $192 million for Wednesday's drawing.

"I don't think it's luck," Dennis said. "It's whatever God wants to give us and when he wants to do it."

The state's latest winner, Hartzell "John" Lancaster, a small-business owner from the Northern Panhandle community of Weirton, buys five tickets for every Powerball drawing at a convenience store.

He didn't realize he'd won big in the May 17 game until he went to the store the next day to buy tickets for the next drawing.

"I couldn't believe it when I found out," Lancaster said. "I must have been as white as a ghost."

Join the discussion

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quincy_maxwell June 02 2014 at 12:22 PM

These games are fixed.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
4 replies
Odens Fist June 02 2014 at 12:26 PM

West Virginia is probably the poorest state in the Union.. I smell a rig.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
2 replies
Shirley Odens Fist June 02 2014 at 3:00 PM

I don't think WV is a poor state at all. Where have you been???? There are a lot of rich people around here.............

Flag Reply +2 rate up
geoatwhgi Odens Fist June 02 2014 at 11:01 PM

That would depend on how you define "poor". Per capita income is just above Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Quality of life here is un-matched. We have one of the lowest crime rates in the US. Weather is temperate. Housing is affordable. Can't beat the scenery. And, very few Hispanics and Afro-Americans. So, please don't come here!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
graygeeter geoatwhgi June 03 2014 at 3:37 AM

It seems like a very boring state, that's probably why there are no African Americans or Hispanics there.

Flag 0 rate up
jammon64 geoatwhgi June 03 2014 at 5:50 AM

We won't but you and your state will be the first to die when this country gets invaded. By the way since there is no Hispanics or Afro- Americans there, do you all live in trailers or in a caves.....lol

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R June 02 2014 at 2:22 PM

Now why is that. One clear answer: It's a rigged game. Officials/authorities have to look into this immediately. With all the tickets that are purchased - most winners from one state. Something's wrong and with rampant corruption everywhere, who's to say that's not what's going on here!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Shirley June 02 2014 at 2:59 PM

This is just great. All people from other states, think WV is a stupid state. I want them to know all people are not hicks. You only win if you play and these people all paid their money to win, and God bless them all. I don't think these games are fixed as some people do, I just think these people win because they spend their money. I think the ones that say they do are only jealous because they didn't win.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
gamay9 Shirley June 02 2014 at 3:47 PM

Shirley: The more the state pays out, the less it has to stablizie income and real estate taxes. I would prefer to live in a state with many lottery ticket buyers and few winners.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
chmdeeringconst June 02 2014 at 1:09 PM

it's not luck.. it's fixed just like everything else

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
mrkmrk56 chmdeeringconst June 02 2014 at 3:35 PM

Oh, EVERYTHING is fixed wow I suppose it is fixed against you hmmmm ?.........

Flag Reply +3 rate up
3 replies
toddisit June 02 2014 at 2:19 PM

Interesting. I don't play PB anymore, $2 a game, never seem to get any numbers, of course that could be said for any lottery game, would rather pay $1, it's money wasted either way for most people.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Mik's $ Toy June 02 2014 at 2:14 PM

the PPL of W.Va need to know that it is NOT God who is letting ppl win! It's just the luck of the draw nothing more

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
Mik's $ Toy Mik's $ Toy June 02 2014 at 2:15 PM

If things are good they praise God and give him credit - if things go bad they blame God's displeasure. God can only please half of them half the time.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
nelsronit June 02 2014 at 4:33 PM

If you find a store in your state that has a high volume of ticket sales when the dollar amount reaches into the millions, hike over to that thar shop and purchase a ticket, no matter for whatever amount and you might be surprised. It's the high volume stores that usually have the ring of good luck. Don't bet all you've got, just be patient.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
douttfire nelsronit June 02 2014 at 11:10 PM

I just do a quick-pick. I can usually tell that my ticket won't match even ONE number by the sequence of numbers. I haven't won in years...and the last time I won it was $7.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
dmlsna June 02 2014 at 1:57 PM

It's fixed just like all the lotto games

Flag Reply +2 rate up
hanlon1212 June 02 2014 at 6:49 PM

If I ever hit the lottery , my 10% tithes would go to Harry Chaoin Food Bank
and extra donations would go to veterans , single Mothers and pet projects .

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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