Who wants to be a millionaire? New Hampshire Lottery officials hope some 147,000 people do.
That's the approximate number of $10 instant tickets left in the lottery's NH Millionaire's Club game. The game, which started more than two years ago, offered two $1 million instant prizes. But only one has been claimed.
Lottery officials are hoping the increased odds of winning will spark a little ticket fever in the Granite State. Lottery representatives have taped fluorescent paper signs to Plexiglas lottery boxes in mom-and-pop stores across the state, proclaiming "Still one $1 million prize unclaimed."
Some 93 percent of the 2.1 million Millionaire's Club tickets have been sold. But even much better odds of winning $1 million instantly isn't necessarily enough to get many people to plunk down a sawbuck for the chance. A very small sampling of some of the state's 1,200-plus lottery retailers didn't reveal much lottery fever going around.
"It's not really selling," Chantha Pen said of the Millionaire's Club tickets.
Pen still has some of the tickets left for sale at her Mini Express store on Plaistow's Main Street. She wasn't expecting to sell out anytime soon.
"People buy one of these, one of those," Pen said, pointing to the rows of scratch tickets behind her counter. "They're not buying this particular game."
The fever's also not detectable at Don's Market in Hampstead either.
Owner Wayne Dumas, who has been selling tickets since the lottery began in 1964, said he has been keeping an eye on this particular game. He said lottery sales in general are down as more people worry about paying their bills and have less discretionary money to spend on things like lottery tickets.
But increased odds and big prizes do draw some customers' attention, he said.
"This is getting to be pretty wild," Dumas said.
He's been watching the days tick past, with more tickets sold daily, but still no second $1 million winner.
Gail Allain, who manages the produce section at Don's Market, said she felt lucky yesterday. She wrote a check for $50 and bought the last five Millionaire's Club tickets from the display at the front of the store.
"I've been kind of waiting," she said. "But I feel lucky today."
Allain cleared a spot on the front counter, above the dry gas and between a cigarette display and a stack of store fliers. After several minutes of frantic scratching, she had a $10 winner and a chance to enter a drawing for a third million-dollar prize in the fall.
Tickets marked with a star — there are about 200,000 of them, according to lottery officials — are eligible for a random drawing in September. Allain was happier with the star ticket than she was with her $10 prize.
Dumas said he had one more book of the tickets, but he wasn't rushing to replace them in the case. He hadn't bought a ticket himself, but said his wife probably would before they were gone.
They're almost gone at Oasis Gas and Mini Mart on Rockingham Road in Windham. Owner Rashid Succar cracked open his last pack of 50 Millionaire's Club tickets yesterday afternoon. He didn't expect them to last long.
"They know there's still a winner out there," Succar said.
While lottery ticket sales are down, especially $30 instant tickets, Succar said people are still willing to pay for a chance of winning a big prize.
"The $10 ticket is still a good seller," he said.
He, like most of the other retailers interviewed, said he didn't play much himself.
But lottery officials are banking on more people taking a chance as this game winds down. And all the profits go to public education, said Maura McCann, the lottery's marketing director.
For every $1 someone spends on a lottery ticket, the state lottery makes a 30-cent profit, she said. Take 2.1 million tickets at $10 a pop and that adds up to a lot of cash for New Hampshire schools.
There are other prizes still unclaimed in the Millionaire's Club game, too. As of yesterday afternoon, four of the 58 instant $1,000 prizes hadn't been cashed in, nor had two of the 10 $10,000 prizes.
"Even $10,000 is better than a sharp stick in the eye," Dumas said.
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