In advance of Wednesday night's record $1.5-billion Powerball jackpot, several Vermont Lottery retailers located near the Canadian border told necn they have been seeing an uptick in sales to Canadian customers.
"It's fun," said Canadian Powerball player George Hutchison, who drove to Vermont to buy a ticket and gasoline Wednesday. "We'll see what happens!"
Hutchison lives in Quebec, just north of the Vermont border, he said. Because he cannot play Powerball in Canada, he needed to cross the border for this chance to get rich.
"It's just a kick to say you're playing the biggest lottery in the world," Hutchison said. "That's the only real reason why I'm here."
Todd Conger, the owner of Ste. Marie's Market in Swanton, was one of several retailers in the community just south of the Canadian border who told necn of the recent increase in sales to Canadians that has come with the rising Powerball jackpot.
"It's a short drive to come over," Conger noted. "A lot of them are very unfamiliar with the game, they just know the jackpot's very high, and just want a piece of the action."
According to the website of the Vermont Lottery, residents of foreign countries are absolutely welcome to play its games, as long as they are 18 years old.
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The Vermont Lottery site explains winners from foreign countries still must pay withholding taxes on any winnings of $600 or more. The Vermont Lottery website says the current withholding rate for federal taxes for nonresident aliens is 30 percent. The withholding rate for Vermont state taxes for nonresident aliens is 7.2 percent, the Vermont Lottery site says.
Colette St-Onge, a Powerball player from Quebec, said she made the short drive to Vermont to buy tickets for herself, her husband, and her son.
"If I win, I don't know what I'm going to do," St-Onge laughed. "I'm going to get many friends!"
Hugh Bishop, another Canadian Powerball player, said he would not have made the trip from Montreal to Vermont to buy tickets unless the jackpot were so huge.
"When I first heard it was $700 million, I came down then, and I bought," Bishop recalled. "Now that it's $1.5 billion, you know I've got to be here!"
The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are extremely slim: one in 292 million.