Ahead of $1.73 Billion Jackpot Drawing, Lottery Hopefuls Flock to L.A. Store

Caesar Sanchez looks out at the same sign all day, every day from his electronics shop in downtown Los Angeles: “Billionaire made here.”

The B on that sign is pasted over an old M to update the word “millionaire,” because in July the small convenience store sold a winning Powerball lottery ticket worth more than $1 billion. A sign in the form of a check above the register at the Las Palmitas Mini Market marks the date (July 19, 2023) and the amount ($1.08 billion) made out to an unknown “Lucky Player.”

Now another big Powerball drawing is about to happen — $1.73 billion on Wednesday night — and the shop has become a go-to place for those who are eager to win big. Some people come in from other neighborhoods or even other states.

The winner of the July jackpot still has not been identified, but winners have a year to come forward and often take their time. Some people don’t realize they have won, while others may be securing legal and financial advice. “This is life-changing money,” said Carolyn Becker, a spokeswoman for California Lottery.

Wednesday’s drawing will be the second-largest ever jackpot in the United States. Huge jackpots have become increasingly common in the multistate Mega Millions and Powerball lottery drawings because of changes to the games over the years and higher ticket prices. Los Angeles County has seen this level of luck before: Last year, a winning $2 billion Powerball ticket was sold at a gas station just north of Pasadena.

While Mr. Sanchez looks at that sign with the makeshift B, he said he won’t be tempted to play. His wife, though, had already tried her luck by buying tickets ahead of Wednesday’s drawing at that very store, and he acknowledged that “you never know.”

He added, with that inevitable hopefulness induced by lotteries, “Maybe I can be the lucky one.”

Many people in the neighborhood feel at least some excitement at the possibility that luck might strike again. Fred Hendricks, who lives nearby, said he had started buying Powerball tickets at Las Palmitas after he heard about the winning ticket in July.

Walking out of the shop and into the city’s hot October sunshine on Tuesday, he was optimistic. “It could happen again,” he said. In the event of winning big, he said, he would financially secure the future of his children and donate money to charity.

Playing the Powerball costs $2 a ticket. You can choose your own numbers or opt for a quick pick, which generates a random sequence. Drawings are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:59 p.m. Eastern.

“I’m going to buy it today,” Marina Diaz said as she worked at a clothing store about a block away. She said she’d buy one ticket at her local gas station and one at the lucky market before Wednesday’s drawing. “I hope I win something,” she said.

Las Palmitas earned $1 million from the California Lottery for selling the winning ticket in July, and business at the store is up by 40 percent, Maria Menjivar, who owns the shop, said in a statement released by the lottery agency. Before July, she added, business was so bad that she had worried that she might have had to close the store.

The home of the billion-dollar-plus ticket is a small, unassuming store in the Fashion District that caters to a steady stream of locals who come in for lottery tickets, ice cream, sodas and other conveniences. The streets around it are home to wholesale stores selling wedding dresses, quinceañera dresses and other types of clothing, less than a mile from Skid Row, an area where thousands of homeless people live in tents.

That people have traveled from far away to buy their lottery tickets at the lucky shop is not uncommon, Ms. Becker, the lottery spokeswoman, said, adding that buyers tended to be very superstitious. But she said that she had never heard of the same store selling two jackpot tickets.

But playing the Powerball isn’t a rational pursuit: Your odds of winning the full $1.73 billion this week are roughly one in 292 million.

That’s no deterrent for Paul Cunningham, who used his $8 winnings from a previous drawing to buy more Powerball tickets at Las Palmitas. Driving in from the nearby Echo Park neighborhood this week, he said it was his second time trying his luck at Las Palmitas. He said he would keep returning to the store.

“When it’s this amount of money, you got to,” he said.

Katy Krantz, an artist who works in the nearby Bendix Building, said the neighborhood was excited and a little shocked when news of the billion-dollar prize dropped in downtown Los Angeles in July. “One billion is hard to wrap your head around,” she said. But, she added, “I don’t think lightning is going to strike twice.”

Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.

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