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Lotto Fever Rages in Florida

September 15, 1990

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Lines were long and dreams were big for tonight’s $100 million Lotto drawing.

It was possible, but not probable, that the jackpot will end up at more than $115 million, the amount of the nation’s highest, Lottery Secretary Rebecca Paul said Friday.

The chance of a single winner was nearly one in 14 million, which is the number of possible combinations of six numbers. It was likelier the riches will be split among several winners.

With 100 million tickets expected to be sold by tonight’s drawing, there was only one chance in 200 that no one will pick all the winning numbers, lottery spokesman Ed George said.

And they could come from anywhere.

″Everybody who knew I was coming to Florida this week wanted me to buy them Lotto tickets,″ said Frank Greer, a Washington campaign consultant for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lawton Chiles. ″That’s all anyone is talking about.″

The state Lottery Department fielded calls from across the country and Canada, George said.

The $1 Lotto tickets were hustled for $3 to $5 at newsstands on Wall Street and midtown Manhattan. A dry cleaning shop in Washington, D.C., was shut down Friday for illegal sales. Authorities said more than $1,000 in cash was seized along with a lottery machine and gaming receipts.

In Georgia, a couple who parked their pickup truck at a Macon shopping mall and posted a sign saying ″Florida lottery tickets for sale″ was arrested Wednesday on commercial gambling charges.

Michael LaBruno, a self-proclaimed ″Lotto nut″ from Jersey City, N.J., flew to Jacksonville and bought $7,600 in tickets at a convenience store. It took almost five hours to process the tickets and cost him $600 in air fare.

Connecticut businesses that deliver tickets for out-of-state lotteries were swamped with customers, most interested in the Florida drawing.

Thomas Wilkison, owner of the Manchester Lotto Express office, said his office took orders for 20,000 tickets Wednesday. By mid-afternoon Thursday, 17,000 more had been taken.

Florida’s previous record Lotto prize was $58 million, split between five winners in April. Each winning ticket was worth almost $11.7 million to be paid over 20 years.

The record for a prize to a single winner of a computerized numbers game is held by Sheelah Ryan of Winter Springs, who won a $55.1 million Florida Lotto jackpot in September 1988.

The current jackpot was missed four weeks in a row, rolling over each time. Pennsylvania’s lottery produced the nation’s highest jackpot in April 1989. It paid the holders of 14 winning tickets $8.3 million over 26 years.

Throughout the week in Florida, there were several reports of Lotto players spending $10,000 on the weekly computerized game. But not all were big spenders.

A mother of three in Apopka bought a Lotto ticket with 100 pennies.

″It was all we had,″ said Melanie Faby, 37. ″If we win, I’ll start a foundation to help abused children and women.″