Record $550 million Powerball turns out local crowds

The multi-state Powerball lottery jackpot reached an eye-popping $550 million Wednesday and the lure of instant riches brought a number of Pine Bluff area residents out to local businesses to purchase their chance at financial independence at the price of $2 per ticket.

Chris Warfield, manager of the Brookshire’s grocery store at 28th Avenue and South Hazel Street, said that business was brisk at the store’s customer service counter.

“We’ve had quite a few,” Warfield said of the number of people purchasing lottery tickets. “We’ve had a lot of foot traffic coming in to buy tickets.”

Warfield said that the long lines of jackpot hopefuls did not necessarily translate into increased store business in general.

“Usually they just come in to buy the tickets and go,” Warfield said. “They don’t normally stay to buy anything else.”

Vivian Barkins is the bookkeeper at the USA Drug on East Harding Avenue and Ohio Street.

“We have had a lot of people coming in to buy Powerball tickets,” Barkins said. “We will have at least 20 or more at a time waiting to buy them. It’s been this way all day.”

Falon Lantrip, a cashier at Sandy Acres on U.S. 270, was optimistic.

“We did nearly $1,000 in ticket sales by lunchtime and we’ve been doing well ever since,” Lantrip said. “We probably sold at least $300 in tickets between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.”

Chris Hart, chairman of the Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that area businesses are grateful for anything that leads to more traffic into their stores.

“Obviously, it is the hope of the business community that an increase of traffic into the stores will lead to an increase in sales of some sort and that it will increase their bottom lines,” Hart said. “If the lottery does nothing else we hope that it will provide a little nudge and boost to what we hope will be a successful holiday season. Obviously, businesses do lots of things to attract people into their showrooms and if the Arkansas lottery helps contribute to that then we are glad there is a positive for us coming from the lottery.”

The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery reported Wednesday that in the period from Monday until 3 p.m. Wednesday a total of $2,582,000 had been spent on lottery tickets throughout the state and that scholarships generated just from Powerball this month until noon Wednesday total $2.48 million.

Powerball is a multi-state jackpot game. Drawings are held at 9:59 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday.