Every year the state’s Department of Imagination sends out an email with the 10 luckiest places to buy lottery tickets in our region.
And every year I’m the only one in the newsroom to see this as news.
What’s up with that?
Another dumb lottery story — or dumb luck story — depending on your imagination.
Washington’s Lottery (the department’s official name) based the lucky list on the number of tickets sold in 2018 with prizes over $1,000. How much over, they didn’t say. It was an excuse for this imaginative journalist to try her luck. After all, Wednesday’s Powerball jackpot is $750 million, the fourth largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history.
The Lynnwood Fred Meyer on 196th Street SW was crowned as the luckiest place in the North Puget Sound region, which covers Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan counties.
Not only that, the store was tied for sixth in the entire state, out of about 3,600 lottery retailers. Cha-ching!
The hypermarket of groceries and home goods with discount deals everywhere sure doesn’t look like a jackpot hotspot — and it wasn’t for me. The $5 scratch ticket I bought from the lottery vending machine was a dud.
Second on our region’s lucky list is the Edmonds Safeway in the Highway 99 plaza by my favorite TJ Maxx store. I ducked into TJ’s to do a little shopping and the total of my nine items was $123.45.
The TJ cashier was wowed by the number sequence.
“You should buy a lottery ticket,” she said. She had no idea what I was up to. Then again, neither did my editors.
The number 7 is considered lucky, so I spent $7 on draw tickets at the Safeway. I won $2 back.
Next on my gambling junket was the Highway 99 WinCo Foods, an employee-owned chain where you have to bag your own groceries.
Get this: WinCo stands for Winning Company. And it’s reflected at the service desk with five checks of $10,000 winners in 2018, all five on the Match 4 draw game.
“The lottery lady said we have a lucky Match 4 machine,” the WinCo worker told me.
I bought $20 worth and she told me my numbers looked lucky. (They weren’t, but for a while there I was dreaming.)
In the hole $30 bucks, I was betting on the ampm gas station on Everett Mall Way. The clerk there told me she sold a $20 scratch ticket that won $500,000 in 2017. Oh, yeah, baby! I bought a $20 scratch ticket from her. I won my $20 back. Better than losing.
The Silver Lake Safeway on 19th Avenue SE is fifth on the lottery’s lucky list. But it’s top on Mike Robinson’s list.
I met up with him at the store where he won $190,000 last July on a Hit 5 ticket.
“That’s me,” he said, showing me the Dept. of Imagination promo check taped to the side of the ticket machine.
“What inspired me was cancer,” he said.
Robinson, 61, was diagnosed in 2014 with Stage 4 T-cell lymphoma and underwent six rounds of six-day inpatient chemotherapy, each followed by two weeks of home injections.
“You know, you’re in the hospital for six days straight and there are people dying around you and it’s quite the eye-opener. It is dramatic and a few times you wish you wouldn’t wake up, you feel so miserable,” he said.
“I realized how short life is.”
Robinson worked 36 years at Boeing as a non-conformance corrective action process specialist.
Translation: he’s good at spreadsheets.
After taking 10 months off for cancer treatment, he started playing Hit 5 in 2015.
“I studied it and decided this is the easiest one to win. It has the best odds, 576,000-to-1,” he said.
“I know this sounds kind of goofy. I have a spreadsheet on my laptop. You can see, ‘That number has been picked 30 times and that one only two times.’ I thought, I’m going to pick not the ones that are lucky, but that are overdue. Those are my numbers.”
So he went to his neighborhood Safeway with his numbers, only to promptly change his strategy.
He didn’t want to be that guy filling in the little circles on the play slip. Instead, he went with computer picks.
“I decided the real trick is playing consistently, and not to give up,” he said. “You can’t stop when you don’t win.”
He paired Hit 5 with caramel Americanos.
“My wife and I had gotten into the habit of stopping at the Safeway and getting a Starbucks on the way home,” he said. “We’d order up the Starbucks and I’d go over to buy my tickets.”
He’d wait to check the tickets on the store scanner next time he was in.
“Isn’t it all about the anticipation?” he said.
On July 2, a $5 ticket from the previous week yielded a dollar.
“So I take the $1 and reinvest it to buy another ticket,” he said.
On 07/11 (July 11) when he scanned it, there was a message he hadn’t seen in his three years of playing: “Contact the lottery office.”
His heart was beating as he waited in line at the service desk, where he was told he hit the jackpot. The winning numbers were 15, 17, 29, 34 and 36.
“My mother was in the store. I’d seen her car out there,” Robinson said. “Off I ran to track her down in the store and gave her a big giant hug.”
He retired in October. So did his wife, Renee. They went on a cruise and traded in an old Outback with a boatload of miles for a new Mazda.
My $5 Safeway tickets were zilch. Out of $57 I sunk into gaming, I had $22 to cash in to keep or reinvest. As Robinson said, don’t give up.
At $2 a ticket, I have an 11 in 292.2 million chance to win three-quarters of a billion dollars in the Powerball drawing.
It’s all about the anticipation … and a lot of imagination.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: reporterbrown.
Top 10 “Luckiest Retailers” in the North Puget Sound region:
Fred Meyer, 4615 196th St. SW, Lynnwood
Safeway, 23632 Highway 99, Edmonds
WinCo Foods, 21900 Highway 99, Edmonds
Everett Mall ampm, 220 SE Everett Mall Way
Safeway, 11301 19th Ave. SE, Everett
Mount Vernon Red Apple Market, 820 Cleveland Ave., Mount Vernon (Skagit County)
Sunrise Grocery, 8887 Sunrise Road, Custer (Whatcom County)
Fred Meyer, 12906 Bothell Everett Highway, Everett
Haggen, 1815 Main St., Ferndale (Whatcom)
Fred Meyer, 18805 U.S. 2, Monroe
— Source: Washington’s Lottery