Reporting by WVUA 23’s Chelsea Barton

Columbus, Mississippi, not even 60 miles from Tuscaloosa, is now the closest place where those in our area can purchase Powerball and Mega Millions tickets.

I-20 westbound has looked much like a caravan of Alabamians traveling over the state line to purchase lottery tickets since yesterday’s announcement of the change. In fact, many of the cars in state line convenience store parking lots adorn Alabama state tags.

“It’s handier because, I’m gonna admit, I’ve driven to Georgia and Tennessee upon occasion. So now I can just drive to Mississippi,” Tuscaloosa resident Luisa Reyes said.

“This is a hobby of mine, I like playing numbers, I like going to the casino and I like fishing,” Tuscaloosa resident Edward Merriweather said.

Much like fishing, patrons take a chance on a big payoff with every ticket they purchase. But, while the convenience has moved a little closer to, Alabamians buying tickets today were quick to remind that the Yellowhammer State is still one of the last states without a lottery.

“I think that the people in Alabama should kind of loosen up,” Merriweather said. “Don’t be like the dog guarding the hay. You can’t eat the hay, but don’t stop the rest of the animals from playing. If you don’t play, don’t have that attitude, that’s a bad attitude.”

Perhaps Powerball and Mega Millions are so popular because they are so inexpensive. Just $2 could change a life forever, or leave someone that much poorer. But, with Alabama being landlocked by participating lottery states, that $2 can add up and still benefit nothing here.

“Alabama has given away hundreds of millions of dollars to Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and even people that will drive across Mississippi to play the lottery,” Louis Dorazio, who drove from Tuscaloosa, said. “They’re really just cutting off their noses to save their face.”

For players like Merriweather and Reyes, they say it’s a change they are willing to take.

“I’m gonna donate it to people who are less fortunate than me and enjoy some myself and share it,” Merriweather said. “That’s what it’s all about. Money’s no good unless you have someone to share it with and that makes it better and better.”

After a winning ticket was announced in Florida on Wednesday night for $390-plus million, the Powerball jackpot is back down to $40 million. The Mega Millions jackpot is currently at 1$55 million. The next drawing is Saturday at 9:59 p.m. CST. Until then, Reyes – and plenty other Alabamians – refuses to give up on the loot.

“I’m gonna keep on playin’ and prayin,’” she said.

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