With $1.73 billion on the line, lottery hopefuls are flocking to the Lucky Store in LA

Cesar Sanchez stares at the same sign all day, every day from his electronics store in downtown Los Angeles: “Billionaire Made Here.”

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

Now another big Powerball drawing will take place – $1.73 billion on Wednesday night – and the store has become the place to be for those eager to win big. Some people come from other settlements or even from other countries.

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

Wednesday’s drawing will be the second largest jackpot ever in the United States. Huge jackpots have become more common in the multistate Mega Millions and Powerball lottery drawings due to changes in 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 north of Pasadena.

As Mr. Sanchez looks at that makeshift B sign, he said he won’t be tempted to play. His wife, however, had already tried her luck by buying tickets ahead of Wednesday’s draw at that very shop, and he admitted that “you never know”.

He added, with that inevitable hope that lotteries evoke, “Maybe I can be lucky.”

Many people in the neighborhood feel at least a little excited about the possibility of luck happening again. Fred Hendricks, who lives nearby, said he started buying Powerball tickets in Las Palmitas after hearing about the winning ticket in July.

Stepping out of the shop into the city’s hot October sun on Tuesday, he was upbeat. “It could happen again,” he said. In case of a big victory, he said, he will financially secure the future of his children and donate the money to charity.

Powerball costs $2 per ticket to play. You can choose your numbers or opt for a quick pick, which generates a random string. Drawings take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:59 PM 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 will buy one ticket at her local gas station and one at the lucky market before Wednesday’s drawing. “I hope to win something,” she said.

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

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

It was not uncommon for people to travel from far away to buy their tickets at the store, said Ms. Becker, the lottery spokeswoman, adding that customers were very superstitious. But she said she had never heard of the same store selling two jackpot tickets.

But playing Powerball is not a rational pursuit: Yours chances to win the full $1.73 billion this week they are about one in 292 million.

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

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

Katy Krantz, an artist who works in the nearby Bendix building, said the neighborhood was both excited and a little shocked when news of the $1 billion prize hit downtown Los Angeles in July. “One billion is hard to wrap your head around,” she said. But, she added, “I don’t think the lighting will strike twice.”

Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed to the reporting.

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