Utahns drive to Idaho for chance at winning $500 mil Powerball lottery

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 17:43:19-05

MALAD CITY, Idaho - It's one of the smallest cities in the state, but it's one of Idaho's biggest chances at a lottery winner.

Malad City, population of about 2,000, sits 13 miles north of the Utah/Idaho border. It's easy to miss on most days, but on Wednesday, it was the destination for thousands of travelers.

"They come from all over, this is a big deal," said Ben Lenaghen, cashier at the Top Stop gas station in town.

Lenaghan spent most of the day Wednesday handing out lottery tickets to a line full of customers, the majority of which drove in with Utah license plates.

"The population probably doubles, maybe even gets four or five times as big," Lenaghen laughed.

Utah doesn't participate in the lottery, so thousands of Utahns make the drive north in hopes of striking it rich.

"That tiny little shred of hope, that’s what’s fun about it," said one Utahn who made the drive from Salt Lake City.

According to the Idaho Lottery Commission the last jackpot winner in the state came in 2005, but since 2010, 22 others have matched at least five numbers, winning $1 million in the process.

Ten of those winners have come from the state of Utah.

"Those are pretty good odds," Lenaghan points out.

When it comes to ticket sales, Boise sells the most Powerball tickets in the state. But the tiny town of Malad City comes in second, despite being dwarfed in population size.

All that means there's a good chance a winner could come out of Malad City, a fact Lenaghan takes comfort in.

“I think about that a lot thinking this could be the one and wish them luck, hope for the best,” he said.