Millions of Lotto tickets will be snapped up for tonight’s massive $42 million draw but many retailers throughout Auckland and the Waikato are watching thousands of dollars slip away thanks to the lockdown.

Powerball has not been won since late August and if one lucky player wins tonight’s draw it will be the second-largest Powerball prize ever won in New Zealand.

This is the third time the jackpot has been over $40m since November 2016. The largest prize won in New Zealand was $44m in November 2016.

For Saturday’s $35m draw 1.5m tickets were sold – roughly double the number of sales for an average Saturday draw – and a Lotto spokeswoman said they expected about 1.8m tickets to be sold for tonight’s.

While players are undoubtedly pumped about the prospect of a life-changing win, level 3 lockdown restrictions mean many retailers are missing out on sales that could get them through the year.

Under level 3 restrictions Lotto outlets in essential services like supermarkets and dairies can open provided they can meet the health and safety guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health. Outlets in malls or other non-essential stores are unable to open.

A former store owner said big draws were the “lifeline” of Lotto shops so missing out on a share of the action was devastating for many.

“The bigger it gets, the more of a frenzy that occurs because it doesn’t happen that often. Lotto often gets won at 10m, 12m or 20m but when it gets this high it creates such a frenzy and that’s when the Lotto shops will actually make money.

“So retailers wait, sometimes years, for draws like this to happen,” she said.

“If it gets to $50 million it will go absolutely bonkers.”

The woman, who owned a Lotto store for 20 years, said the hype created by such large draws lasted for weeks and was what retailers waited for to get them through the year.

Once the prize pool reached the $50m limit at which it must be won, retailers made thousands of dollars more in commission than they usually would, she said.

“For retailers, it is so incredibly important. It’s literally thousands of dollars that are used to pay wages, rent and expenses over the coming months when things quieten down after the prize gets won.”

If Powerball was not struck tonight, it was highly likely Saturday’s draw would be a $50m must-be-won draw, Lotto NZ said, although they would not be able to confirm it until after tonight’s results.

The Powerball jackpot has reached the $50m limit twice before with the winnings split both times.

The first was in February 2020 when two players from Auckland and Hawke’s Bay shared the jackpot to take home $25.1m each and the second in August last year when 10 second division players shared the jackpot, each winning just over $5m.

The former store owner said it would be “gut-wrenching” for those who couldn’t open, especially when customers could still buy tickets at dairies, supermarkets or online.

“As a retailer, you have to wonder if those customers will ever come back. It’s like someone cutting off your lifeline when you need it most,” she said.

“When Lotto went into supermarkets, retailers took a hit. When it went online it was another hit and now this feels like the final straw.”

Lotto NZ said they knew retailers had been “doing it tough” during lockdown and empathised with them although there was nothing they could do.

“The health and safety of our customers and retailers is of paramount importance to us,” the spokeswoman said.

Counters in non-essential stores were not able to open because tickets could not be sold in a completely contactless environment, she said.

They had been seeing a higher proportion of online sales than usual, which was likely being driven by level 3 lockdown in Auckland and Waikato, although the growth in online purchases had been a trend for a number of years, she said.

As for the stores unable to cash in on this month’s large draws, go and support them when they open again, said the former Lotto retailer.

“They are doing it so hard right now. They are still paying all their bills and their income has been stripped. Go out there and get that ticket at your local.

“Support local because you have no idea what that does for that retailer – it’s everything to them.”

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