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Big Game Fever: Pennsylvanians Head to New Jersey for $350 Million Jackpot; Gambling Counselor Warns Some Will Overspend

Aired May 9, 2000 - 1:27 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story is the six little ping pong balls that could make somebody out there $350 million richer tonight. That's the latest estimate of tonight's Big Game lottery jackpot, thanks in part to the millions of folks who've been standing in long lines in seven states to buy these lottery tickets.

You haven't bought yours but still plan to, you may be interested in the numbers that have come up most often in Big Game history. You'll have to pay close attention to this: The number 1 has been drawn 22 times; 27, 42 and 47, each of them drawn 20 times. The least popular Big Game number is 19. It's only come up eight times; 7, 10, 30 and 34 each have come up nine times. The most popular big money ball is 27. It's come up eight times; 8, 15 and 25 have come up seven times. The least popular big money ball is 16, which has come up only once; 11, 28, 30 and 36 each have come up twice.

And now that you know all this, it won't matter one single bit.

Big Game officials expect to see $140 million in ticket sales today alone. The drawing is at 11:00 Eastern, as we mentioned. Lots of those tickets are being sold in New Jersey to folks who live in Pennsylvania.

Here's Dick Standish (ph) of CNN affiliate KYW in Philadelphia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty close to $300 million. My wife will appreciate me standing out here in the hot sun.

DICK STANDISH, KYW REPORTER (voice-over): Many Pennsylvanians have been drawn across the bridges entering Big Game country. At the Turnersville Texaco, Paul Smargesi (ph), South Philadelphia:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I hit, I'm going to live down the street (ph).

STANDISH: Charles Pena (ph), Southwest Philadelphia:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my uncle's, my aunt's, neighbor's.

STANDISH (on camera): And how much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ninety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don't believe in gambling. It happened years ago when I was unlucky in cards. I got all straight cards when I needed face cards, so I don't play; I don't gamble.

STANDISH (voice-over): Bill Miller was drawn in by the excitement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I figure one ticket's enough because it only takes one to win.

STANDISH: At Butts and Bets in Mount Ephraim, Linda Gentilly (ph) finds many first-timers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a lot of people come in and they've never played the game. They say, what's that big jackpot? And I say, how many do you want? How much money do you have? And they say, all right, $20 cash. They don't even ask any questions, say, OK.

STANDISH: And at del Monte's Newsstand (ph) in Camden, George West is in for $1.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's worth a shot, you know. Who -- how in the world can you win $325 million for a dollar and you got just as much chance as everybody else who walks in the door. It's that simple.

STANDISH (on camera): How long have you been in the line at this point -- roughly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About half hour, 45 minutes. You say about 45 minutes?

STANDISH: Out in the baking sun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baking sun.

STANDISH: Is it worth it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three-hundred-and-twenty-six million? I think so.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, very few of the would-be zillionaires actually expect to win, so why spend the time and the money? Others don't play until the jackpots rise from the merely staggering to the incomprehensible.

Here now to help us sort out some of the oddities of human behavior is Joanna Franklin, a gambling counselor in Baltimore.

Thanks for being with us, Ms. Franklin.

JOANNA FRANKLIN, GAMBLING COUNSELOR: Hi, Natalie.

ALLEN: A $350 million jackpot, people going crazy: Is it enough to send a gambling counselor over the edge?

FRANKLIN: Well, actually, no. We worry more about people who play on a daily basis than the average people that will get involved when the money gets quite this high. It's an exciting time, but it's a minority of folks that have a problem with the lottery, and they're the ones that we look after each and every day.

ALLEN: So, a $350 million jackpot, this is just getting the people that are just having fun and acting on a whim. You Don't see much harm in that?

FRANKLIN: Most of the folks that are playing are certainly doing it because the prize is that high and they don't want to feel left out. They want their chance to get the big prize. But there are a minority folks that truly will be spending way more than they can afford: the mortgage money, the food money, medicine, bill payments. They're going after this money, too, to get them out of a desperate position, and they're the ones we're concerned about.

ALLEN: Do you think we're erring in this country with making such hoopla after so many Big Game this, Powerball that?

FRANKLIN: I think we are giving some mixed messages. We say it's very important to work hard, and then we say that the only way some people that are middle, lower middle, lower class, upper middle class, the only way they'll ever get close to any kind of money like this for the next two, three generations is to take a chance with gambling. There's no way they can work their way into fortunes like this.

ALLEN: Now, when do you have a problem? When is it not just a whim anymore?

FRANKLIN: We get the most concerned when people are spending more than they can afford to lose; when they're taking time away from children, from the job, from their families, from regular social pursuits. All of these are signs that somebody has crossed the line. If they start to use other people's money in order to gamble, then something is wrong.

ALLEN: It seems so many of the people that we're talking to in the lines at this and that convenient store really believe they could have a shot at this. Why do people think that they could possibly win when you look at the odds?

FRANKLIN: Well, the odds seem to matter less as the prize gets higher. When it's for less than a million dollars, there are fewer players, and the higher the prize gets, the more people want to play.

I think it has a lot to do with just the attraction of the fantasy: What would you do with $320-odd-million? It's an interesting kind of a fantasy to have and everybody knows that somebody's going to win. Sooner or later, somebody's going to win this prize, and it could be me. Why not me? And for $1, I'll go ahead and take a shot. Those folks are the normal gamblers. The people that are spending everything they have to try and win this prize, mortgaging their homes to try and win this prize, these are folks with a different problem.

ALLEN: Well, what do you hear about people that do win these huge jackpots? I'm sure you've followed this and how people handle this afterwards? Is it the life that they did dream of?

FRANKLIN: Unfortunately, it usually is not. We don't have research on every winner of a big prize, but there's been some literature and a book written about lottery winners. And the reality is many people overspend the money that they have won, they quit their jobs before they're really ready to, they get in debt before they're ready to, and in short order much of that money is long gone. It's not invested wisely, it's used to -- if I did it once, maybe I can do it again. And, unfortunately, many of them are no better off in the long run than they were if they had not won at all.

ALLEN: Joanna Franklin, thank you for being with us today.

FRANKLIN: You're welcome.

ALLEN: A dose of reality there.

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