Bay Area residents test their luck as Powerball jackpot nears $400M

Super Bowl LIV is still a week away but many Bay Area fanatics have their eyes set on another prize this weekend— the Powerball jackpot. 

The prize has already jumped to $343 million and is expected to reach an estimated $373 million after Saturday's drawing. 

Ernie’s Liquor store in San Jose’s Evergreen neighborhood was bustling with business on Friday. Patrons weren't rushing in to buy booze or wine, but to purchase Powerball tickets. 

“It’s for the new year. Hopefully, with the new year, new luck, that you win something,” said Ninh Dao, a dentist who works a few doors down from the store. He bought several tickets.

“We’re kind of coming down from the holidays. But you always need money and people are very excited and we’re excited for them. It’s an exciting time here in California,” said Cathy Johnston, a spokeswoman for the California Lottery.

Regular players and novice say they’re ponying up the dollars now, hoping luck from the Lunar New Year will increase their chances of winning.

“It’s Chinese new year tomorrow. So good luck is good luck,” said Eddie Hinojosa, who purchased tickets. 

Lottery officials said there hasn’t been a jackpot close to this range since last November when it was $152M. Ernie’s Liquor has sold winning tickets before, and owners say they’re hoping to add big money to someone’s life again— and add a percentage to their own pockets.

“Everybody says, 'you made history,' so maybe again they will try their luck. Maybe they’ll be lucky again,” said David Singh, who worked the counter at Ernie’s Friday afternoon.

The lottery does more than create excitement for the masses and retirement for the winners. A portion of the sales help fund education in California. For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the California Lottery contributed $1.8 billion to education. 

“It’s an exciting beneficiary we have. It’s something we’re proud to support, and it’s an exciting part of the lottery,” said Johnston.

Let the buying and dreaming for Saturday’s drawing kick into high gear. However, if no one wins this round, the next jackpot will be close to $400 million.