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 he wins, Gadlin said, he'd journey back 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 wide open spaces, roaming deer and 380 acres of potatoes, corn, watermelons and sugar cane. Gadlin hasn't been there for more than 20 years.
"It was a beautiful way of life," he said.
And if Gadlin 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.
Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said of the price increase: "... we believed the jackpots would grow fast and grow large because of the change in the game, and it does appear that it is working."
Roxie Breece, an assistant manager at a Cenex convenience store in Ogallala, Neb., thinks the long weekend will help. She said Friday that 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.
Recent Powerball jackpot 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.
Chad Robinson, 41, a chef at a Cleveland restaurant, had an option during his break Friday: Put down $2 on the 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. Robinson lost power at his suburban Cleveland home in Warrensville Heights during Sandy and said it made him mindful of life's uncertainties.
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."