UNION GAP — Eliseo and Priscilla Rodriguez never bought a single lottery ticket in their lives before Tuesday.
But a $500 million Powerball jackpot changed that. The Wapato couple — he’s a 43-year-old employee of Longview Fibre, she’s a 38-year-old assisted-living caregiver — joined the constant stream of dreamers at the ARCO on East Rainier Place, east of the Valley Mall, and bought 10 bucks’ worth.
The size of the jackpot, a record for the 41-state Powerball game and the second-largest of any kind in U.S. lottery history, was enough to get their attention. Even if they don’t have any notion whatsoever of what they’d do with the money.
“I think I would be overwhelmed,” Eliseo Rodriguez said. “What to do? Buy pizza for everybody? For the whole town? Why not?”
It was the sort of fanciful dream that’s been thrown around a lot at that particular ARCO, which has been named Washington State Lottery Retailer of the Year for five straight years. Store manager Rosa Mullen, who came out from behind the counter to show the Rodriguezes how to properly fill out their tickets, said some customers have promised to spend a little bit of the jackpot on her if they win.
“They’re going to buy me a car,” she laughed. “My choice.”
Mullen, who has worked at the ARCO store for 18 years, said the lottery traffic Tuesday was about as high as she can recall. The store had sold $1,300 worth of Powerball tickets by 2:30 p.m., she said. Nationally, sales were going at a rate of about $105,000 per minute, said Arlen Harris, communications director for Washington’s Lottery. In Washington alone, more than $1 million worth were sold Monday, he said. The expectation was that between $1 million and $2 million more would be sold before the drawing tonight.
Nine of those tickets, which go for $2 each, were bought by Jessica Anglin, another employee at the ARCO store. Anglin, a 28-year-old from Yakima, has three kids, the oldest of whom is 12. Winning this jackpot would change all of their lives, she said.
“I wouldn’t have to worry about putting my kids through college,” said Anglin, who has a cleaning-service job in addition to working at the ARCO. “By the time they start college, I’ll be working three jobs. So that would help.”
Like everyone else buying tickets, she knows the odds of winning are beyond long. But when the jackpot is as big as it is now, it’s kind of fun to dream, said Yesenia Hurtado, a 22-year-old Yakima woman who stopped by for just one ticket.
“I figure, just take a chance. Maybe I’ll be the lucky one,” she said.