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$1.6 billion lottery draws Utah crowds to buy tickets in Idaho

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KJ’s Kwik Stop in Malad | Courtesy KJ Superstores

MALAD — Lines at convenience stores in Malad have been lengthy lately, thanks to a potentially high lottery payout.

The national Mega Millions lottery jackpot has risen to a historic $1.6 billion, the Powerball is up to $620 million, and convenience stores locally and especially along the Idaho/Utah border are seeing the difference.

Brittany Hargis, a public relations specialist working with KJ’s Kwik Stop in Malad, said the store often gets a lot of traffic coming from Utah to buy lottery tickets and alcohol, but this weekend has been “a circus.”

Utah’s state constitution and criminal code prohibit games of chance — including lotteries — so many Utahns go to Idaho or Wyoming to buy lottery tickets.

Brandy Boot, assistant manager at Top Stop Chevron in Malad, said his store sees hundreds more people when the lottery prize is high.

KJ’s Kwik Stop management said their store averages 1,950 customers on a normal busy day, but there were 4,035 customers on Friday, mostly buying tickets. KJ’s has a line specifically for lottery ticket purchasers; on busy weekends, they will have four to six cashiers for that line alone. Some people waited in line for 30 to 45 minutes.

When people buy tickets, Hargis said they will sometimes make comments like, “I think this is the one,” or “I feel good about this one.”

“A lot of people say they have a really, really good chance at winning” when they buy tickets, Boot said.

Local Jamie Prestwich pooled her money with two co-workers — they have bought $90 worth of tickets in the past few weeks.

She said if she won the lottery, Prestwich said she would help her family, especially her parents. She also might use the money to buy properties in different areas, as well as helping out with nonprofit groups.

Lottery line at KJ’s Kwik Stop in Malad | Courtesy KJ Superstores

Convenience stores far from the border are also seeing an uptick in customers, though these are mostly locals.

KJ’s Travel Center in Idaho Falls has been selling up to 150 tickets a day, manager Karen Shore said. At up to $2 a ticket, that’s around $300. When lottery prizes are low, Shore said they usually only sell $100 worth of tickets a day.

If a store sells a winning lottery ticket, the Idaho Lottery will give the convenience store a small portion of the money. Otherwise, most of the proceeds from the Idaho Lottery go to help Idaho’s education system. Since 1990, the Idaho Lottery has donated almost $93 million to school districts in eastern Idaho.

With the Mega Millions jackpot at $1.6 billion, and the Powerball grand prize $620 million the chances of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are incredibly slim. The odds of winning Mega Millions is 1 in 303 million. The odds of winning Powerball’s grand prize are 1 in 292 million.

To put that into context, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning this year or being hit with a meteorite from space during your lifetime than winning the lottery, according to National Geographic Magazine.

The last winner of the Mega Millions jackpot was an 11-member office pool in Santa Clara County, California, which won $543 million in July.

The next Mega Millions drawing is Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Powerball’s drawing will be on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

“Someone’s got to win,” Prestwich said of her chances. “It might as well be me.”

KJ’s Kwik Stop in Malad | Courtesy KJ Superstores
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