Evening is prime time for lottery hopefuls
Posted December 17, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — With Tuesday's Mega Millions jackpot approaching a record, those looking for an early Christmas check packed ticket lines throughout the day Tuesday. Across North Carolina, an average of 800 tickets were being sold each minute, with the "rush hour" still to come.
Brisk sales prompted lottery officials to push their prediction for the top prize in the multi-state lottery to $636 million. The jackpot now trails only a $656 million Mega Millions pot that was sold in March 2012.
Ticket sales are greatest in the 5 o'clock hour on the evening of a jackpot, lottery officials said. All those potential winners have the evening to plot how they would spend the windfall.
Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million.
"It's the opportunity of a lifetime," Idus Daniel said. "I think everybody should go ahead and throw a couple of dollars."
Shawn Manire was thinking about spending all that cash.
"It would be awesome, unfathomable really to think about what you could do with that," he said as he waited for his tickets at a Raleigh convenience store.
Across the country, the feeling was the same.
Annie Pedersen said she wanted to be part of the action, so she jumped in and bought two tickets at a Milwaukee grocery.
"Everybody is so excited about it so I wanted to get in on some of the excitement, too, by watching," she said.
Tickets are selling at a pace that surpassed even the lottery's expectations.
"We estimate by drawing time we'll be about $75 million ahead in sales," said Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions.
Otto said officials expect about 70 percent of the possible number combinations to be purchased for Tuesday night's drawing. She also noted that if a winner isn't selected either Tuesday night or for Friday's drawing, the jackpot could hit $1 billion — an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, the nation's two main lottery games.
The drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m. EST. The cash option is estimated at $341 million, before taxes. A patient winner who chooses to paid on an annual basis would start out collecting about $4,600 per hour. That rate would increase over the 30-year payout.
The previous odds of winning Mega Millions' top prize were roughly 1 in 176 million, nearly the same as Powerball, which also has seen a surge in large jackpots since its rules were revamped in January 2012.
Mega Millions is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.