Lottery ticket lines swelled as the record Mega Millions jackpot grew to $640 million, thanks greatly to players who opened their wallets despite long odds of success. Officials estimated ticket-buyers will have spent more than $1.46 billion on the jackpot by the time Friday night’s numbers are drawn.
A cafe worker in Arizona reported selling $2,600 worth of tickets to one buyer, while a retired soldier in Wisconsin doubled his regular weekly ticket spending to $55. But each would have to put down millions more to guarantee winning what could be the biggest single lotto payout in the world.
“I feel like a fool throwing that kind of money away,” said Jesse Carter, who spent the $55 and donated the last two tickets he bought at a Milwaukee store Friday to a charity. “But it’s a chance you take in life, with anything you do.”
The jackpot, if taken as a $462 million lump sum and after federal tax withholding, works out to about $347 million. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $171 million less if your state also withholds taxes.
Laura Horsley, who does communications and marketing for a trade association, bought $20 worth of Quick Pick tickets at a downtown Washington, D.C., liquor store Friday. But Horsley, who said she won’t buy a lottery ticket unless the jackpot tops $100 million, remained realistic.
“I don’t actually think I’m going to win, and I don’t believe in superstitions or numbers or anything like that,” she said. “I just figured it’s right around the corner. I’d be crazy not at least to give it a shot.”
Thousands of players — who converged on convenience stores in 42 states and Washington, D.C., where Mega Millions tickets are sold — agreed.
Kelly Cripe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Lottery Commission, said that as of Tuesday, nationwide sales for the Mega Millions drawing totaled more than $839 million. Officials projected an additional $618.5 million in sales ahead of Friday’s drawing, however, for a projected total sales figure of more than $1.46 billion.