The Washington Post

A rush on tickets as the Mega Millions jackpot tops $1 billion


Who will win the $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot?

It’s one of the biggest questions in America after a winning ticket with all six numbers was not sold for Tuesday night’s $830 million drawing, increasing the next jackpot Friday to an estimated $1.025 billion, the third-highest total in the game’s history. The Friday jackpot has an estimated cash payout of $602.5 million, according to Mega Millions, after 29 consecutiv­e draws have come and gone without a winner matching all six numbers since April 15. The nationwide interest surroundin­g the 10-figure jackpot even crashed Mega Millions’ website for more than two hours Tuesday night.

“We look with anticipati­on on the growing jackpot,” Ohio Lottery Director Pat Mcdonald, the current lead director of the Mega Millions consortium, said in a Wednesday news release. “Seeing the jackpot build over a period of months and reaching the billiondol­lar mark is truly breathtaki­ng. We encourage customers to keep play in balance and enjoy the ride.”

Mcdonald added, “Someone is going to win.”

But as players rush to pick up their Mega Millions tickets and dream big — the odds of matching all six numbers are roughly 1 in 303 million — another popular question is again front and center for those already making unrealisti­c plans for their hypothetic­al $1 billion victory: What would you do if you won the lottery?

A history of past lottery winners shows a wide range of what players do with their winnings. Many have paid off debts, bought homes and invested their money, while others have put the cash toward building a water park, gambling in Atlantic City or starting a women’s profession­al wrestling organizati­on. Some adjusted to life as a multimilli­onaire. Others say the joy and thrill that came from the unexpected sudden wealth soon turned to bad choices and sadness — and ruined their lives.

“When you immediatel­y realize you’ve won, you’re filled with excitement. You’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is amazing, my life is going to change,’ ” said Robert Pagliarini, who is president of California­based Pacifica Wealth Advisors, and has worked with lottery winners. “That’s immediatel­y followed by anxiety and fear — ‘Oh, my gosh, what am I doing? How will I handle this? My life may change and maybe not in a good way.’ ”

Friday’s jackpot is just shy of last year’s $1.05 billion Mega Millions jackpot, won by a single ticket shared by four members of a suburban Detroit lottery club. If no winning ticket is selected Friday, the Mega Millions jackpot will inch closer to the record $1.5 billion prize that a South Carolina player won in 2018. The player, who also chose to remain anonymous, opted for the lump sum of more than $877 million, according to the South Carolina Education Lottery Commission.

Millions of players are expected to buy $2 tickets for this week’s Mega Millions, which is played in 45 states plus Washington and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There were more than 6.7 million winning tickets at all levels for Tuesday’s drawing, according to Mega Millions, including nine tickets with winnings ranging from $1 million to $3 million each.

With the increased interest in the $1 billion jackpot and the spike in tickets sold, it will become more likely that one person, or multiple people, will have a winning ticket after Friday’s drawing, said Mark Glickman, a senior lecturer on statistics at Harvard University.

“The big difference is when these jackpots get to be larger and larger, more people will play, so there’s more of a chance someone is going to win,” Glickman said. “But that’s not to say any individual person will have an improved chance.”

When players have picked the right lottery numbers, mostly all of them pay off their debts or look to buy homes for themselves or their loved ones, Pagliarini said. He recalled one client of his splurging on a new home in the Malibu area that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.

Some have celebrated their wealth through investment­s and nontraditi­onal purchases or donations. In 2011, John Kutey and his wife, Linda, used some of his $28.7 million share from the winning Mega Millions ticket of $319 million he bought with co-workers to put toward building a water park in Green Island, N.Y., in honor of their parents, according to the Albany Times Union. Louise White won a Powerball jackpot in Rhode Island of more than $336 million after she had purchased a rainbow sherbet in 2012, and started a trust for her family named after the dessert, ABC News reported.

Just this month, Crystal Dunn took her smaller winnings of more than $146,000 from a Kentucky Lottery online game and gave some of it away to strangers in the form of $100 grocery store gift cards.

But for every feel-good story of unlikely lottery triumph, there are other experience­s that highlight why it matters to have a financial adviser and attorney ready to help if someone does win the big one, Pagliarini said.

“There are so many stories of these lottery winners who end up with less money than when they started,” he said. “The big question, and fear, is, ‘Am I going to blow it all?’ And they still just might blow it all.”

After Evelyn Adams improbably won the New Jersey Lottery in both 1985 and 1986, winning more than $5.4 million total, her winnings were completely spent by 2012 because of gambling in Atlantic City and investment mistakes, according to Forbes. South Carolina native Jonathan Vargas, who was just 19 when he won a $35.3 million Powerball prize in 2008, put his winnings toward Wrestlicio­us, a women’s profession­al wrestling promotion that he founded. The show, which featured scantily clad performers who also did sketch comedy, lasted just one season and cost Vargas almost $500,000, according to CBS News.

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