DES MOINES, Iowa – Black Friday shoppers in many cities briefly detoured into lottery retailers, drawn off task by the prospects of winning a $325 million Powerball jackpot – the fourth-largest in the game's history.
Chicago resident Clyde Gadlin, 65, emerged from the bustle of holiday shoppers on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, to stop in at a 7-Eleven to buy his daily batch of Lottery tickets, including Powerball.
For him, the game is a chance to dream – a single winner's cash payout would be nearly $213 million before taxes – and he tries not to let the long odds burst his bubble.
Lottery officials say they're unsure what effect Thanksgiving and beginning of Christmas shopping season will have on sales, which normally pick up in the days before high-dollar drawings.
If Gadlin wins, he said he'd return to his grandfather's farm in Heidelberg, Miss., where he spent part of his childhood.
"I would go down there again and probably do a little bit of farming," he said, recalling the roaming deer and 380 acres of potatoes, corn, watermelons and sugar cane. Gadlin hasn't been there for more than 20 years.
And if he isn't successful this time, it's likely he'll have another shot at a record-breaking pot of cash.
Since Powerball tickets doubled in price to $2 in January, the number of tickets sold has decreased, but the sales revenue has made up for it, increasing by about 35 percent, said Norm Lingle, chairman of the Powerball board of directors.
And as the price went up, so did the jackpots, enticing thousands across the country to play.
"Christmas is coming and $325 million would come in handy," said Tim Abel, 63, who was buying a Powerball ticket at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal. The Broadway stagehand said he usually plays whenever the jackpot goes over $100 million.
Recent Powerball winners include an Iowa couple that won a whopping $202 million on Sept. 26. A week later, a Delaware resident picked all six numbers for a $50 million payday.
Cashiers at a DeliMart convenience store in Iowa City said they expect a last-minute rush Saturday. The store sells $200 to $300 worth of Powerball tickets on an average day, but assistant manager Scott Falkenhan said he anticipates that will more than double.
Falkenhan, 32, was planning to buy his own ticket after his shift ended.
"I'd buy a new truck and a new boat," he said. "Then I'd go on my own fishing tour."
Roxie Breece, an assistant manager at a Cenex convenience store in Ogallala, Neb., said clerks have sold far more Powerball tickets than usual over the past week.
"Tomorrow's going to be a nightmare for us," she said. "With everybody out shopping and the drawing on Saturday, we'll be really busy."
Lingle, who is also the executive director of the South Dakota Lottery, says this weekend will be "telling."
"To my knowledge we've never had a large jackpot run like this fall over a major holiday," he said.
Frank Scorvino of Toms River, N.J., is in charge of buying lottery tickets – including Powerball – for a group of about a dozen fellow construction workers. If they win, he said, most of them would purchase new houses and cars, and some might go on a cruise.
South Bend, Ind., resident Dameon Smith says he'd retire from his job at the Hummer plant in Mishawaka, Ind. He said he'd share with family, friends and people he doesn't know.
Chad Robinson, 41, a chef at a Cleveland restaurant, had an option during his break Friday: Put down $2 on Powerball game or go next door to Ohio's first casino. He bet on the lottery, saying that much cash would change his life "drastically."
"I figure I'll make a lot of people happy with it, not just myself, spread the love and live my life out – parents, loved ones, kids, co-workers, charities," he said.
Terry Fowler, 50, of Conneaut, Ohio, was visiting family in Tennessee for the holiday and stopped in a gas station in Brentwood on Friday morning to buy Powerball tickets. He's a regular player.
"I want to see more than one person hit it so they can share the wealth," said Fowler, a sales representative with a food service company. "I don't think any one person needs $325 million. If 7-10 people hit that, they will live like kings."
Associated Press writers Karen Matthews in New York, Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Neb., Jason Keyser in Chicago; Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland; Kristin M. Hall, in Brentwood, Tenn., Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J., and Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.