Commentary

Huge lottery jackpot has York County players hoping for Christmas miracle

December 16, 2013 

John Williams drove all the way from downtown Charlotte to Miller’s Produce in Fort Mill to buy $100 worth of MegaMillions lottery tickets for his wife and her co-workers on a nursing floor Presbyterian Medical Center.

ANDREW DYS — adys@heraldonline.com

Carla Urso walked into Rock Hill’s Herlong Express convenience store Monday and was asked what her job is.

“Stay-at-home mom.”

As she stood there, a screen displaying the jackpot for Tuesday night’s Mega Millions lottery drawing changed – to $586 million, from $550 million. Urso bought 40 tickets at $1 a pop. (Update: The jackpot reached $636 million Tuesday afternoon)

Asked what she would do with the money if she hit the right six numbers Tuesday night, she mentioned helping the needy, family, a few other needs.

“And I will be a retired stay-at-home mom,” Urso said with a chuckle.

Late Monday, the drawing already was pushing toward a record payout, and customers all around York County are no different than players in 43 states and two territories who are dreaming of a real Christmas miracle.

Even if the odds of winning the big prize are 1 in 258,890,850.

“The line tomorrow will be out the door because it is drawing day,” said Rupal Patel, co-owner of Herlong Express. “Everybody knows this is the big jackpot.”

Dozens of people came into Patel’s store Monday afternoon to buy tickets, but not everybody wanted to talk about what they might do with all that money. And it was the same at other stores around York County.

At Lesslie BP on S.C. 5 near Interstate 77 east of Rock Hill, sales were brisk all day. Same for Mr. Express on Nations Ford Road, where a $1 million ticket was sold last year.

“Some people know that we had the success here, and we all wonder if one of our customers will win again,” said Mike Sharifi, manager of Mr. Express. “We hope so, too.”

Miller’s Produce in Fort Mill, cozy with the state line, has always been one of the S.C. Education Lottery’s largest volume sellers since the lottery began more than 10 years ago.

“We will have lines leading up to the drawing around the place,” said Roger Aiton, a clerk at Miller’s.

One man spent $110 on Mega Millions tickets alone. Another spent more than $200. A little old lady about 4 feet tall with a cane came in and dropped $20 on Mega Millions tickets.

“I can feel it,” she said. “My lucky day.”

Tan Nguyen, who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam two decades ago, drove down from Charlotte to Fort Mill to buy lottery tickets. He was asked what he would do with $586 million.

“Not go to work,” said a smiling Nguyen.

An electrician’s helper named Diego Rojas, an immigrant from Colombia, stopped during a work break to buy a couple of tickets.

“I win, I retire,” said Rojas.

Although both South Carolina and North Carolina sell Mega Millions tickets, many lottery players are superstitious about where they buy.

The best character at Miller’s had to be John Williams – a Carolina Panthers “superfan” known for wearing Panthers cowboy hats that have lights all over them. Williams drove all the way from downtown Charlotte to buy $100 worth of tickets for his wife and her co-workers on a nursing floor at Presbyterian Medical Center.

His mission was to buy South Carolina Mega Millions tickets to go with North Carolina Mega Millions tickets already in hand – even though all the tickets are the same.

The hospital employees – everybody from health practitioners to custodians – all signed an agreement to share the winnings, Williams said.

“So there won’t be any misunderstanding,” he said.

Should any of those 100 tickets Williams bought be the big winner, there will be money for his church and family and giving to others.

That is what money is for, he said – giving.

But maybe just a little bit, a taste, for himself. It is Christmas, after all.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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