Mega Millions lottery jackpot officials say is the "largest lottery jackpot in world history" is causing a frenzy of excitement in the U.S. with thousands queuing up to buy tickets in convenience stores across the country.
The excitement has reached a fever pitch in spite of the fact that the odds of winning the jackpot have been estimated at one in 176 million. People are undeterred by the statistical odds. Facebook and Twitter are buzzing with the news and people are talking excitedly about what they will do with the money.
USA Today reports millions of lottery tickets are being bought across the country ahead of Friday night's Mega Millions drawing. The jackpot has been the main topic of discussion on TV, online social media sites and forums. The pot grew by more than $150 million after drawing failed to produce a top prize winner on Tuesday for the 18th consecutive time since January.
A commemorative "I Played The World's Largest Jackpot" ticket was issued this week.
LA Times reports lottery spokesman Elias Dominguez, said lottery officials are still speculating on how large the jackpot will be on Friday when the drawing will be held. He said: “It’s spiraling out of control. This is uncharted territory.”
Buddy Roogow, director of the Washington D.C. lottery also agreed that it has ventured into "uncharted territory." Dominguez said lottery officials have been holding meetings to project the spiraling sales. He said 283 million tickets have been sold in California alone since January 25. He explained that with so many people playing different number combinations, “There’s a good likelihood someone will hit it tomorrow. Somebody’s life is going to change. It’s really exciting.”
CNN reports Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery and lead director for the Mega Millions group, enthused: "Friday night's Mega Millions drawing will truly be a spectacular event in lottery history and provides an unprecedented opportunity for players to take a chance on a half-billion dollar dream for just the $1 price of a ticket."
Sales of the ticket have skyrocketed at many convenience stores across the U.S. CNN reports that at Manhattan Tobacco, a convenience store in New York, cashier Alex Shanahe said the store has sold winning tickets of $3 million and $5 million. He said: "The sales have tripled. Everybody wants to win the Mega Millions."
USA Today reports queues at the Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne, California, stretched half a block down the Hawthorne Boulevard and around a side street for another half block. Some have waited on the line for three hours at the store which is supposed to have a reputation for being lucky for players.
According to CNN, Mega Millions' jackpot reached $540 million on Thursday. The draw will be held on Friday at 11 p.m. ET. Officials say the lottery is played in 42 states and the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, but with the odds of winning the jackpot at one in 176 million, CNN comments you stand a better chance of being struck by lightning. For those still wavering on the decision to invest in multiple purchases of tickets, USA Today offers information to put your chances of winning the jackpot into perspective:
"About 176 times more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime.
"About 3.76 times more likely to be killed by fireworks this year.
"Almost 9 times more likely to die from a TV falling on your head this year.
But lottery ticket buyers have devised "techniques" to enhance their chances of winning. Some are relying on numbers printed on Chinese food fortune cookies for luck while others are using their birth dates, USA Today reports. Some ticket buyers use computers to pick numbers and one ticket buyer William Dillard, devised his own method. He said: "I play my kids' birthdays, mine, my brother's plus my mother's and father's."
CNN reports Myra Langford, 70-year-old retired school administrator, said she knows the odds but bought the ticket all the same. She reasons: "You got to be in it to win it."
She has already thought of what she would do with the money if she wins: she would help fix the roof of her church and move out of her present apartment in which she has lived for 47 years.
Myra's dreams are modest compared to others. Jaresh Hersh, packaging coordinator for the New Belgium Brewing Co., dreams of never having to wake up to an alarm clock again in his life. He says: "I totally dig my job, but when's that drawing? You may never see me again."
Fox News reports that Marcia Adams of College Park won $72 million in the January 24 drawing. This time around, a winner could get $19.2 million a year for 26 years or receive a single payment of $389 million.
According to Fox News, the previous largest jackpot in history was $390 million won by two players in Georgia and New Jersey in March 2007.
Experts advise ticket buyersHouston Chronicle advises ticket buyers who are planning to pool resources with friends and colleagues to play safe. According to Gary Grief, executive director of Texas Lottery Commission and lead director of Mega Millions: "My advice is to formalize those agreements unless you are dealing with people you completely trust - and trust, potentially, with hundreds of millions."
He cites the example of six construction workers in New Jersey who pooled resources and relied on a member of the group to purchase the tickets. When in November 2009 one of the tickets hit the jackpot, he eloped with $17 million in one lump sum. He claimed that he did not buy the ticket with the money collected from the group but with his own money. However, a jury ruled that he had been dishonest and had cheated his co-workers and ordered him to share the jackpot.
Joseph Gagnon, a Houston attorney also advised people to make copies of tickets and distribute them to pool participants before the drawing. He told Houston Chronicle: "That way, everyone knows what the numbers are. People also can sign a written agreement naming the participants in the pool, how much they're going to contribute, and how the group will divide the proceeds if they win."
The jackpot has grown to a new $640 million world record. If a ticket matches the winning numbers, the player would receive either a lump sum of $462 million or the full sum in 26 annual installment payments.