Record number of Powerball winners, thanks to fortune cookie
By AMY LORENTZEN
Associated Press Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- While one lucky winner snagged a $25.5 million jackpot in Wednesday's Powerball drawing, a record 110 players won $500,000 and $100,000 prizes - thanks to a fortune cookie.
"Yeah, that's a lot," said Doug Orr, marketing director with the West Des Moines-based Multi-State Lottery Association, which operates Powerball. He said Wednesday's drawing broke the Aug. 25, 2001, record when 91 players won large second-tier prizes.
Statistically, the Powerball game expected to have four winners at the Match 5 prize level; instead, they had 110 winners, Orr said.
"The lotteries immediately worked to identify the reason for the unexpected number of winners and discovered that nearly all of the plays were numbers selected by the players and that nearly all of the players had chosen the red Powerball number 40," Orr said. "One ticket, a computer pick ticket, selected the Powerball number of "42" to win the jackpot."
Orr said that as the winners come forward - several winners so far in a half-dozen states - they were revealing that they got the winning number from a fortune cookie.
"With the systems reporting so many plays of 22-28-32-33-39 and Powerball 40, it is likely that most drew their luck from that very fortunate cookie," Orr said.
The Powerball game paid out nearly $20 million in cash prizes on the fortune cookie numbers.
Earlier, Orr said that MUSL was looking into various causes for the duplicate winning numbers.
"We look at patterns and birth dates and favorite numbers, and we're still looking at all of that to see if there's any kind of patterns," he said Thursday morning.
The winning jackpot ticket was sold in Tennessee.
Tickets that match the first five numbers but miss the Powerball win $100,000 each. There were 89 of those.
There were 21 Power Play Match 5 winners. These players matched the first five numbers and missed the Powerball, but placed an extra dollar on the Power Play number, a multiplier number from two to five. Last night's multiplier was five, meaning that the $100,000 prize for matching all five numbers was multiplied by five for a $500,000 prize.
According to the Powerball Web site, odds of winning the grand prize are 1 in 120,526,770, and odds of winning the $100,000 prize are about 1 in 2,939,677.
Russell Lenth, a statistician at the University of Iowa, said he was surprised at the results. He said his own calculations show that the odds of there being so many winners show such "incredibly small numbers they don't even have any meaning."
"I believe that the drawing of the numbers itself is random ... but the numbers that people choose are not random, so certain combinations of numbers will have more winners than others if they occur," he said.
Lenth said the numbers could have special significance such as ages or dates, or simply serve as favorite numbers.
"It must be something about those particular numbers," he said.
The winning numbers were: 22, 28, 32, 33 and 39, with 42 being the Powerball.
Stephanie Weyant, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Lottery, said her state had a dozen $100,000 winners and one $500,000 winner.
"We've had a lot of winners mainly because we're the largest, the most populous state playing Powerball right now," she said, adding that winning drives sales. "It's kind of one of those, 'It can happen to you.'"
Orr said having winners is good publicity for Powerball, adding that when players "know the game is winnable there's a lot of chatter out there."
The record number of the $100,000 and $500,000 prizes to be awarded won't hurt future Powerball jackpots, which will begin again at the regular $10 million jackpot level for Saturday's drawing, Orr said.
"We have the funds to cover it, no problem," he said.