Growing Mega Millions lottery has Alabamians hitting the road

·3 min read

Jul. 26—TALLAPOOSA, Ga. — "We're going to be rich, y'all," Pell City's Patsy Funderburg said to strangers as she walked out of Robinson and Sons gas station here Tuesday morning.

She had purchased a handful of lottery tickets for the Mega Millions lottery that represented a jackpot of $810 million. Funderburg was one of many Alabamians contributing to Georgia's tax base Tuesday, if counting license plates is any measure. Ten of 11 cars in Robinson's parking lot had 'Bama tags. (The lone driver with a Georgia car tag said he was there only because he was driving in from out of town.)

Funderburg echoed what other customers said about how they would spend the money if they won.

"I want to spread it around," she said. "I don't really need the money. I have a good life, but this is fun."

Helping others, giving money to charity and quitting their jobs are things customers said they would like to do with more money than they could ever spend in a lifetime.

Most people didn't seem to be having fun as they stood in a 20-person-deep line that ran from the front desk of the gas station to the back. They stood quietly and in orderly fashion between a set of scratch-off-ticket tables and shelves filled with snack cakes and chips. A law enforcement officer watched over the quick-moving line that filled up from the back as soon as others moved forward.

An individual's chance of winning is less than one out of 300 million, according to www.galottery.com, which explains the prizes and the odds. In addition, online customers may learn how to buy tickets — for example, they can avoid driving by buying online — and they can see the winning numbers. (The $810-million drawing takes place at 10 p.m. CDT.) The drawing will take place again on future Tuesday and Friday nights until the winner's numbers are drawn.

On Tuesday, several people were traveling with family members, sisters and sisters, husbands and wives, and a father and son.

Two sisters, Sherry Piersol and Jenny Uhrich, of Lincoln, said they come to Georgia to buy lottery tickets whenever the prize money gets high. Mega Millions and Power Ball were the two lotteries they entered.

"It's worth the 40-minute drive," said Uhrich. "If people would put the lottery on a ballot, we wouldn't have to come here. But, that's OK. We'll just take our money to Georgia."

Usually, the two said they don't stay around to eat or shop. They buy their tickets and return home to do their chores, according to Piersol.

"It's a good ride with my sister," she said. "This is family time."

Driving even farther were a father and son from Birmingham, "Smitty" and Kevin Smith, respectively.

"This is just for fun," said Smitty, who had kept his son waiting outside as he sat inside and scratched off silver paint from numbers below. He didn't offer if he had won any money. When he joined his son, they were all smiles talking about their trip and showing off their tickets.