Nov. 13, 2002 It's official. A Virgin Islander could become a multimillionaire this Saturday with a Powerball ticket.
Austin Andrews, V.I. Lottery executive director, said at a public hearing Wednesday morning that the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), which oversees Powerball, approved the territory's participation late Tuesday afternoon. He said the tickets will go on sale Thursday.
This makes the territory the newest member in the massive lottery drawings, which includes participation by 21 states and the District of Columbia. The jackpot once reached almost $295 million, though the average prize is closer to $30 million. Andrews said Saturday's drawing is for $29 million.
Wednesday was the second in three public meetings Andrews has been holding on each island. The third meeting was scheduled at 4 p.m.Wednesday on St. John.
Ed Lewis, Leeward Islands Lottery Holding Co. vice president of government operations, said Powerball will be a boon to the territory. LILH is the parent company of Caribbean Lottery Services, which has been running computerized regional lottery games in the territory since mid-February.
"It's very powerful," Lewis said. "It will be very beneficial to the V.I. It will increase the 10 percent CLS now pays to the V.I. Lottery.
Lewis estimated Powerball could bring in about $3.5 million a year to the V.I. Lottery's ailing coffers.
Andrews agreed. "It will bring in some serious money," he said. Andrews said that in its 10 months of operation, CLS has paid the V.I. Lottery an average of about $80,000 per month.
He said the lottery is in better fiscal shape. "We're holding our own right now," he said, "which is better than when I took the job last year."
Andrews said the public seems to have a wrong perception of CLS. "We need to make the public understand that CLS is working for us, not against us."
When CLS began operation in February, there was concern, especially by lottery dealers, that CLS would injure the V.I. Lottery. Andrews made it clear that CLS is leading the V.I. Lottery out of its many years of being in debt.
One of the most pressing concerns right now, Andrews said, is security. "CLS runs the machines, but we are responsible for the money, a lot of money." Andrews said deadbolts and a new ceiling were recently added to the Lottery's computer room at its Barbel Plaza headquarters. "Security is one of the main concerns the MUSL had when they did their inspection last week.
"We are going to have two new enforcement officers on St. Thomas, and two on St. Croix," Andrews said. They must go through Police Academy training. Andrews said they would be paid out of the anticipated $3.5 million of Powerball sales revenues.
Though sales start Thursday, there are still kinks to be worked out. One of them is the commission ticket vendors will get on the Powerball tickets.
Vendors Maggie and Kenneth O'Neal asked Andrews how that would be worked out. Andrews said that it was one of the things he was still working on and that he would work on it Wednesday afternoon. He assured the vendors, however, that they would be getting a fair commission.
On V.I. Lottery ticket sales, the vendors get 20 percent, or $5 per ticket sheet. There are about 575 vendors in the territory.
Vendor Kenneth O'Neal said he expected his sales to go down initially. "It will affect us at the beginning. We will still sell traditional lottery tickets, but our odds will be better in time and make up for the loss."
Another boon for the local economy, Andrews said, will be Powerball sales to tourists. "They won't have to pay the federal tax here, so that will be a big inducement to play here, not in the states." He said that in the states they would have to pay both state and federal tax, about 27 or 28 percent. "Here, they would have to pay only one tax, our 28 percent," he said. "However, they would have to return to the territory to redeem their tickets."
Virgin Islanders and any of the territory's two million annual visitors will be able to purchase tickets from mobile agents and in any of Caribbean Lottery's 110 locations outfitted with the technology to print the tickets, such as gas stations, grocery stores and the company's offices.
Chances on the Powerball tickets are 36 to one, Lewis said. However, he meant on all the possible options included on the Powerball ticket. Players have nine ways to win on Powerball. For one more dollar, a player can get a Power Play ticket which entitles him to multiply his prize except the jackpot by two, three, four or five times.
To win the jackpot, you must match five white balls in any order, and one red Powerball. For more information on Powerball visit its Web site at www.powerball.com. There you can even discover names of past winners, but no helpful hints.
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