Friday, June 25, 1999 | 11:07 a.m.
MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. -- It was the calm before the storm Thursday afternoon at Rose's Den, Las Vegas' prime purveyor of Powerball tickets, 28 miles southeast of Hoover Dam.
A handful of customers sipped sodas and dined on burgers in Rose's tiny restaurant. The blender was busier than the Powerball machine, even though Saturday's jackpot is estimated at $100 million.
But Rose Larsen, the owner of this unpretentious diner-slash-gift-shop-slash-pit-stop on U.S. 93, wasn't fooled by the slow pace of the day.
"I'm taking a two-hour break because I know that after this afternoon, I'm going to be too busy," Larsen said.
Las Vegans will likely flock to Rose's Den this afternoon and tomorrow in hopes of cashing in big on Powerball, the 22-state lottery. The closest participating Powerball state to Nevada is Arizona. And Rose's Den is the closest Powerball retailer to Las Vegas. Whenever the Powerball jackpot creeps close to $100 million, Larsen becomes the Powerball prognosticator to Southern Nevada players and media alike.
Larsen and eight employees were prepared to staff the Powerball machines this afternoon as Las Vegans arrive to trade part of their paychecks for dollar-filled dreams.
It may seem strange to some that Las Vegas residents, who have easy access to almost every type of gaming imaginable, would traverse the tourist-clogged Hoover Dam area and drive another 30 miles just to buy a Powerball ticket. But it's not strange to Larsen, who makes almost all of her Powerball sales to Nevada residents.
"The Nevada people are players. They're numbers people," she said.
And it's not strange to Allan Hirjak, a Henderson resident who came to Rose's Den Thursday afternoon to buy $20 worth of Powerball and scratch-off lottery tickets. Hirjak said that rather than the casinos' slots and tables, he prefers the "community" experience of waiting for the Powerball numbers to fall.
"I don't gamble in Vegas at all," Hirjak said, sipping a milk shake while he picked out the scratch-off tickets he wanted. "I used to. But I kind of got tired of giving the casinos all my money. Now I just come out here."
Larsen doesn't expect anything like the Powerball frenzy that swept her establishment last year when a $295 million jackpot enticed Nevadans to endure a four-hour line to get to her ticket machines.
"I don't think it's going to be that long" of a wait, Larsen said, "not more than an hour. I don't think it's that big yet."
Still, Larsen contacted the next nearest Powerball retailers -- 19 miles south in Dolan -- and told them to be ready. Rose's Den workers will point ticket buyers their way if it doesn't look like they'll make it to the counter by the time sales close at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The estimated $100 million jackpot has built up over 15 draws with no winners. Doug Orr, spokesman for the Multi-State Lottery Association that oversees Powerball, said tickets are actually selling at a faster clip than they did during last year's build-up to the $295 million jackpot.
Rose's Den has never sold a Powerball jackpot winning ticket, although a Henderson resident bought a winning $8 million Arizona lottery ticket there.
The chances of winning Powerball at Rose's Den -- or anywhere, for that matter -- are astronomical. The odds of getting the five white balls and the one red Powerball to fall in your favor are about 1 in 80 million.
For all his effort to get to Rose's, Hirjak said he had "no idea" what he would do if he won. "Just take care of family and charity, I guess."
Rose's Den is open until midnight tonight and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.