Locals make the trek through the gorge on a quest for $1B

LITTLEFIELD, Ariz. — Is it worth driving through the gorge for a lottery ticket?

People purchase Mega Millions and other lottery tickets inside the Desert Springs Travel Center in Littlefield, Ariz. Jan. 22, 2021. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

For some Southern Utahns on Friday, taking that drive – about 20 minutes from St. George and an hour and 15 minutes from Cedar City – may have been worth $1 billion.

“Oh yeah. For $1 billion? You bet it’s worth the drive,” said Pete from Washington City.

The parking lot at the Desert Springs Travel Center just past the Virgin River Gorge in Littlefield, Arizona, was full – mostly with Utah license plates with a smattering of  Nevada plates – with people looking to win the $1 billion Mega Millions prize up for grabs Friday night.

The prize is the third-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history and the largest since 2018.

The Desert Springs Travel Center in Littlefield, Ariz. Jan. 22, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

As Utah does not have a state lottery, the service station and truck stop just miles past the Arizona border is one of the closest places Southern Utahns can go to play the Mega Millions and Powerball games offered in Arizona and 46 other U.S. states and territories. It is also the nearest place for some people in Nevada, including Mesquite, as despite the state’s reputation as a gambling capital, does not have a state lottery.

There was a line stretching about seven people out of the door of the travel center’s convenience store to use three vending machines and a counter for the $2 tickets. There were multiple people purchasing $50 or more of the tickets.

For Bayli from St. George, there weren’t necessarily dreams of a new mega mansion to rival the “Post Malone house,” and she was not under illusions that she was a certain winner. But the idea of living a little more comfortably has its appeal.

“I’d build a house that’s a little bigger,” she said, adding that the trip through the gorge wasn’t much of an inconvenience. “It’s just a quick trip.”

The line for Mega Millions tickets leading into the Desert Springs Travel Center in Littlefield, Ariz. Jan. 22, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The sign above the Arizona Lottery vending machines in the travel center was flashing “$999 million,” as the electronic sign wasn’t capable of showing prizes in the billions.

The drawing of numbers for the $1 billion Mega Millions prize is Friday night at 9 p.m. If no one wins, the prize will rollover to Tuesday’s drawing, where the prize is likely to break the $1.6 billion record for an American lottery jackpot.

The substantial odds of winning was not a deterrence for those in line in Littlefield.

According to Mega Millions, there is a 1 in 302,575,350 chance of winning the $1 billion prize.

For perspective, according to The Motley Fool, you are more likely to be killed by a vending machine (1 in 112 million), elected president of the United States (1 in 32.6 million), struck by lightning (1 in 1 million) or become an astronaut (1 in 12.1 million).

Pete of Washington City was asked if he thought the odds favored him.

“No, but you gotta try.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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