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Happy 30th Anniversary, Powerball!

Pearls are the traditional gift for a 30th Anniversary, but is there such a thing as red pearls? As a gem, pearls represent purity, honest, and wisdom. To this point, in its truest form, Powerball has been Idaho’s favorite Lottery game for 30 years for good reason: No single other game has brought as much excitement or made as many millionaires as Powerball has to Idaho players for three decades.

On April 19, 2022, Powerball celebrated its 30th Anniversary in Idaho. Since those first days of sales, Powerball has sold over $890.7 million in tickets in the Gem State, provided nearly $45 million in commissions to Idaho businesses, and delivered $356.2 million in dividends to benefit Idaho public schools and buildings.

Back in the spring of 1992, the Idaho Lottery joined 13 other states plus the District of Columbia to create what would become one of the great cultural games in American history. On April 19, 1992, the new game Powerball sold its first tickets and on April 22, 1992 the game conducted its first draw. The starting jackpot was $2,000,000 – one-tenth of what it is today.

In April of 1992, the number one song in America was “Save the best for Last” by Vanessa Williams. “Basic Instinct” was tops at the movies. George H. W. Bush was President of the United States.

Powerball replaced Super Lotto*America and took the country by storm. The unique game was the first of its kind to feature a two-drum draw system, drawing five WHITE balls from one pool of numbers from 1 to 45 and one additional drum of RED Powerball numbers from 1 to 45.

It didn’t take long for Powerball to establish a foothold in Idaho. In November 1992, Martha Gibbons became Idaho’s first Powerball jackpot winner, claiming a prize worth $22.1 million.

Three years later, Pam Hiatt became one of America’s largest Powerball jackpot winners when she won a jackpot worth $87.5 million. Her story became nationally known. She bought her ticket from the Jacksons store located on Orchard and 1-84 in Boise.

On Christmas Eve in 1996, the Robinsons and Seagraves won $48.2 million on a ticket purchased in Arco.

During 2004, the Idaho Lottery’s iconic character BALL was created as a jackpot alert strategy for Powerball and quickly gained popularity on TV screens and making public appearances. BALL, and Powerball, have been HUGE ever since.

Nine years after the Robinsons and Seagraves won, Idaho set Powerball history. In February 2005, Eric Kyle, a cook at a diner in Boise won $18.5 million. Four jackpot runs later in May 2005, Brad Duke would win the sixth largest jackpot in American history on a ticket he purchased from the same store that Pam Hiatt did ten years before.

Jacksons #10, the store that sold both Brad and Pam’s winning tickets, remains the only store in America to ever sell TWO jackpot winning Powerball tickets.

In January 2016, Powerball set a world record for the largest single Lottery jackpot – ever – reaching $1.586 billion.

Today, nearly 700,000 Idahoans participate in Powerball each year. Powerball is the longest running Lottery game in Idaho delivering $1.56 million a year in retailer commissions and $14.5 million in annual benefits to Idaho Schools.

Thirty-four players have at least won $1 million playing the game. Two, $1 million winning Powerball tickets have gone unclaimed – one from the Husky Store in Irwin (Swan Valley) along the Idaho-Wyoming border in 2010 and the second from the Maverik on McMillan and Locust Grove Road in Meridian. That’s hard to imagine.

During the Fiscal Year of 2008, fourteen different players, or groups of players, matched the first five number but missed the Powerball number! Oh, so, close to the jackpot. Since 1995, a total of 73 players or groups have won at least $200,000.

Along the way, there’s been some fantastic winner stories. Like Bill Budrius from Blanchard who won $200,000 back in 2006. Despite seeing news stories, reading about them in the paper, hearing about the Lottery looking for a big winner in his area for weeks, it wasn’t until he saw flyers stapled to a telephone pole along Highway 41 that he thought maybe he was the winner.

In 2008, Alice Massey from Rathdrum kept telling her daughter, “I wonder who the dumb lady is who hasn’t bothered to check her Powerball tickets to see if she is the winner.” Six weeks later, Alice had to retract that statement when she discovered “The dumb lady was me!” She won $600,000.

Also part of the 2008 flurry of winners was Gem County Treasurer Connie Goins who won $200,000 on tickets purchased using the playslips of her late husband Gino.

Or the Flint sisters from Brigham City, Utah who arrived at Lottery offices packin’ heat and carrying a fireproof safe to protect their one million dollar winning ticket.

There have been large groups with memorable names – the Jetway Crew from Hill AFB, Dreams Recalculated (also from Hill AFB), and an entire group of 40 individuals from the HVAC Shop from the University of Utah who chartered a bus to Boise to claim their prize.

Of the more memorable winners, there was the Grende Family from Teton and the Middlemiss family from Salmon and South Jordan, Utah.

Perhaps, though, the most memorable winning story of all belongs to Randy Branum of Sandpoint. A regular player, Randy always checked his Powerball tickets before dropping them in the mail to be paid by Lottery Customer Service. On one particular ticket in late October 2016, Randy’s five-line ticket had a $4 winner on the first line. So, he turned the ticket over and signed it, put in the envelope and mailed it to the Lottery without checking the other lines.

When his ticket arrived in Boise, Idaho Lottery Security recognized immediately he’d mailed a ticket worth $1 million to us. Without a claim form, the Lottery was unable to pay the claim. So Lottery Security called Randy. He thought it was a joke and hung up on them. They called back. And again, he didn’t believe them. Security then had the Lottery’s Social Media coordinator contact Randy. At this point, Randy thought it was a seriously bad joke, a prank being played on him by a friend. He didn’t take that seriously. It wasn’t until the Idaho Lottery’s Public Information Specialist called that he became convinced. The Lottery delivered the winning check in person and presented it to Randy at a media event at the Waterfront Chevron in Sandpoint.

Yes, over the years Powerball has grown, changed. There are now draws three nights a week and every ticket in Idaho includes more winning with the addition of PowerPlay to every ticket. The odds of winning are still long, but we also know the odds of winning if do not have a ticket are zero.

After 30 years, the Lottery and Powerball are nearly synonymous with each other. No matter what the jackpot, the game is always HUGE for players, retailers, and those who imagine what they can do when they win.

But the real winner of Powerball? The People of Idaho.

Happy Anniversary, Powerball. Now if only, we could find some red pearls that would fit.