When I win a $500M jack­pot . . .

‘Planet’s largest’ lot­tery pay­out has play­ers dream­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY MERED­ITH SOMERS

What would you do with $500 mil­lion?

That’s a ques­tion mil­lions of peo­ple across the coun­try are ask­ing them­selves as the clock ticks down to Fri­day’s record-break­ing Mega Mil­lions lot­tery draw­ing.

“I’d pay off my house and prob­a­bly buy an­other one,” said Alexan­dria res­i­dent Wanda Layne, who bought a ticket to Tues­day’s Mega Mil­lions draw­ing and was ready­ing to play Fri­day. No one won the $363 mil­lion prize af­ter Tues­day’s draw­ing, set­ting up the largest lot­tery jack­pot in his­tory.

“I’d take care of my fam­ily, I’d def­i­nitely travel,” Ms. Layne said. “If I won, I’d build a cen­ter for chil­dren at risk in South­east Washington.”

The Mega Mil­lions jack­pot hit the half- bil­lion- dol­lar mark by noon Wed­nes­day, lot­tery of­fi­cials said. It could go higher as play­ers in 42 states, the Dis­trict and the Vir­gin Is­lands snap up tick­ets that they hope hold the six lucky num­bers that would change their lives.

“We’re call­ing it ‘the planet’s largest jack­pot,’ “said D.C. Lot­tery Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Buddy Roogow. “Ob­vi­ously,

there’s tremen­dous ex­cite­ment. I think at this stage, with a jack­pot of $500 mil­lion, it’s very con­ser­va­tive. I’m sure it’s go­ing to be more.”

The num­bers will be drawn at 11 p.m. Fri­day. The lump-sum cash pay­out would be $359 mil­lion — a haul that dwarfs the sec­ond- largest Mega Mil­lions jack­pot of $240 mil­lion, paid out in 2011 for two lot­tery tick­ets sold in Idaho and Washington state.

“Peo­ple who don’t usu­ally play, play,” when the jack­pot is this big, said Virginia Lot­tery Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Paula Otto.

Ms. Layne said she isn’t a reg­u­lar lot­tery player, but does get in­ter­ested when the jack­pot “gets out­ra­geous.”

“There’s magic in that huge jack­pot,” Ms. Otto said. “This is the lot­tery’s ver­sion of March Mad­ness.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Ge­or­gia Lot­tery in At­lanta, where the Mega Mil­lions num­bers are drawn, the last per­son to win the jack­pot was Mar­cia Adams of Col­lege Park, Ga., who won $72 mil­lion on Jan. 24.

No one since has matched all six num­bers, but peo­ple have won be­tween $2 and $250,000 for match­ing some of their ticket num­bers to those drawn.

The odds of win­ning the jack­pot prize are 1 in 175 mil­lion, and Mr. Roogow and Ms. Otto said they are fairly con­fi­dent that some­one will win the jack­pot Fri­day.

Their rea­son­ing is that about 66 per­cent of the po­ten­tial com­bi­na­tions were played Tues­day, and with more peo­ple play­ing their odds for Fri­day’s draw­ing, “we’ll prob­a­bly be well into 90 per­cent of the com­bi­na­tions,” Ms. Otto said.

“There will still prob­a­bly be some num­bers that are not played, but we know the more peo­ple play, the greater the chances,” she said.

D.c.-area res­i­dents have some luck on their side. In the past 10 years, there has been a record Mega Mil­lions and Power­ball jack­pot win­ner from the Dis­trict, Mary­land and Virginia. On Christ­mas Eve, Wes­ley’s Res­tau­rant and Cock­tails, in Elk­ton, Md., sold a win­ning $125 mil­lion Power­ball ticket to a man who came in to buy beer.

Jeff Wes­ley, who sold the win­ning ticket, said he has seen a rush on lot­tery tick­ets this week, as some play­ers hope that a bit of the Ce­cil County lo­ca­tion’s luck will rub off on their odds.

“Peo­ple have been rub­bing my arm with their tick­ets,” Mr. Wes­ley said. “A ma­jor­ity of peo­ple will say light­ning doesn’t strike twice, but I tell them it does.”

AN­DREW HARNIK/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ty­ron Car­roll of An­napo­lis (left) and Lewis Wil­born of Hy­attsville buy Mega Mil­lions tick­ets at an Exxon gas sta­tion at Bladens­burg Road and New York Av­enue North­east on Wed­nes­day. The jack­pot has reached $476 mil­lion, the big­gest in U.S. his­tory, and could go higher be­fore Fri­day’s draw­ing.

BAR­BARA L. SAL­IS­BURY/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A cus­tomer buys Mega Mil­lions tick­ets at the Exxon sta­tion at the base of the Key Bridge in Ge­orge­town on Wed­nes­day, hop­ing that lit­tle piece of pa­per will be­come hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.

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