Lottery fever hitting hard

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

Odds are, there’s a lottery ticket tucked tightly away somewhere in your wallet.

With the highest-ever Washington State Lottery jackpot hanging in the balance at $28 million today, ticket sales are busy.

Lottery officials say lottery fever is everywhere.

"It’s a huge thing," said Maureen Greeley, lottery spokeswoman. "Everybody wants to give it a try at this point."

But a Seattle psychic Tuesday warned that winning vibrations aren’t present.

"No one will win," said Eric Carlson, a Seattle psychic for 20 years. "The challenge is for us to get real this week. We need to deal with real issues."

Carlson said people have been stuck in sugar-coated, pie-in-the-sky thinking.

"Now is the time for people to be taken back to basics," he said. "We need to restore our integrity with others, and once that happens, and once we begin to care about others, then maybe the money will go.

"But this draw isn’t it."

The six Lotto numbers drawn today will be announced shortly after 7 p.m. If an individual wins he or she can claim half the jackpot, or $14 million, right away. That’s $10,080,000 after taxes.

If a winner chooses yearly payments, the check will be $806,400 a year, after taxes.

"That’s more than $2,200 a day for 25 years," Greeley said.

When Lotto reached $10 million Sept. 16, lottery officials decided to sweeten the pot by $2 million each Wednesday and Saturday drawing. It typically increases only $1 million each draw. The last winner was in August at $8 million.

That’s what’s led to the largest jackpot in the lottery’s 18-year history. The previous largest winner happened in December 1998, when two men split the jackpot. Each man got $12 million.

One of them was an Everett man, Don Hopkins. Hopkins, former Port of Everett Commission chairman, chose to take the one-time cash payment and scored $4.32 million after taxes.

The highest jackpot paid to a single winner was in October 1992 when a Spanaway resident won $21 million.

But in terms of the overall winning record, Everett’s been lucky, lottery officials point out. A second big winner, Dan Olafson, won $8 million in April 1998.

There doesn’t seem to be any local method to the number-picking madness, though. One of the local winners used his own lucky numbers and the other let the lottery machine pick six numbers for him.

Whatever method, a lot of people have been picking numbers. Sales of tickets in Saturday’s $26 million jackpot reached $6.5 million.

Overall, since the jackpot went from $14 million to Saturday’s $26 million, sales reached $28.3 million. By comparison, when the 1998 Lotto jackpot went from $14 million to $24 million, there was $27 million in sales. "So we’re still not at the level of sales that we were then, comparatively," Greeley said.

She suspects that may be because there is more competition for the entertainment dollar.

"It takes a larger jackpot all the time to get people to play," she said. "Most don’t play until it gets into the double digits.

Since the lottery awarded its first prize in 1982, it has contributed more than $1.6 billion to the state’s General Fund to support education, human services and natural resources. But the contributions in 1999 were less than one-half of 1 percent of all funds that support state services.

Of the total proceeds of the lottery sales, more than 60 percent is used to pay out prizes, 22 percent goes into the General Fund, retailer commissions account for 6 percent, about 3 percent go into stadium funding commitments, 4 percent cover the costs of sales, and about 2 cents on every dollar goes toward administrative costs.

In any event, if today’s Lotto jackpot remains in place for Saturday, it will reach $30 million. And according to psychic Carlson, you can better your chances of winning it by becoming "real."

"Instead of just doing that nice thing you’re always saying you’re going to do, get out and do it," he said. "Or make peace with someone. Face (the fact) that your relationships have to be solid before you will see any capital gains."

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