Powerball players look to cash in on new game

$66 million jackpot has ticket buyers purchasing tickets at rapid rate; Lotto sales begin to see decrease

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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Patti Bobonick walked into the 7-Eleven in west Steamboat Thursday and paid $2 for two lottery tickets: a regular Colorado Lotto ticket and a Powerball ticket. The tickets were printed on the same paper with the same faded purple ink.

They draw on the same human instinct to take a chance with virtually insurmountable odds.

But when payday rolls around, they have little in common.

Powerball, the multi-state lottery game with a potential $66 million payout this Saturday, blasted off Thursday with retailers throughout Colorado selling more than 120,000 tickets before 11 a.m.

Smaller payouts are available for getting some, but not all, of the numbers. Meanwhile, the Colorado lottery is dangling a $4 million jackpot in front of potential consumers.

"I would buy a $66 million ticket instead of a $4 million ticket any day," said James Goodwin, the manager of the 7-Eleven. Goodwin said sales of Powerball tickets had been stronger earlier in the day but as the day wore on, more people were coming in just to find out how to play.

The 7-Eleven had sold 141 tickets as of 2 p.m Thursday.

Bobonick, who had lived in Oregon and played Powerball there said she was happy that Colorado had come around to offering Powerball.

The first Powerball ticket sold in Colorado printed out at 4:30 a.m. in Walsenburg, said the lottery's director.

Mark Zamarripa, the director of the Colorado lottery, said the state expects to sell as many Powerball tickets Thursday (potentially as many as 600,000 tickets) as it does in four days with the regular statewide Lotto. There may be a drop-off in the number of regular lottery tickets sold, but overall the state expects an incremental $30 million gain for the lottery budget this year, Zamarripa said. Of that money, more than $11 million will be goin g to parks and open space and other state programs, he said.

Great Outdoors Colorado is slated to receive 50 percent of the money with a cap at $46 million, with state parks receiving 10 percent and a conservation trust fund getting 40 percent, he said. That trust fund will distribute money to cities, towns and counties based on population to pay for parks and recreation, Zamarripa said.

Zamarripa said the Powerball lottery is economically efficient for the state because it allows it to share payout and some promotional costs with other states. Colorado is the 22nd state to join the Powerball game.

In response to questions about the nature of lotto as a gambling enterprise that can feed on the same compulsions as other gambling problems, Zamarripa said lottery games are comparatively low-stakes.

He said consumers often buy lotto tickets when they are at a gas station and have some spare change in their pockets. Lottery tickets compete with candy bars and Tic-tacs, not high-stakes gambling establishments, he said. When gas prices rose last year, sales of lotto tickets dropped an indication that people do not necessarily buy the tickets as a habit, Zamarripa said.

The number for a gambler's hotline is printed on the back of each Powerball ticket.

Dreams of an outlandish Powerball payout in Colorado may be somewhat short-lived however. Today, state Sen. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) is seeking a preliminary injunction in Pueblo against the game because he says it is illegal under the state Constitution. Lamborn claims the game is not state-supervised as it must be by the Colorado constitution.

The voters of Colorado passed the Powerball referendum in November, 2000.

(Avi Salzman is a reporter for the Steamboat Pilot/ Today.)

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