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$355 million

Residents buy tickets, dream big

Residents buy tickets, dream big

March 06, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Tonight's Mega Millions lottery jackpot offers mega bucks, and players are looking for mega chances to win a few of them.

Retailers across Washington County are reporting a surge in sales for the $355 million lottery jackpot, the second highest in the game's 10-year history, and the highest since its name was changed from "The Big Game" to "Mega Millions" in 2002, according to the game's official Web site.

The highest jackpot, $363 million, was in May 2000.

Tonight's jackpot initially was set at $340 million, but so many tickets were being sold for the multistate game that officials raised the prize by another $15 million.

Abby Zombro, owner of Central City Liquors in Hagerstown, anticipated a deluge of lottery ticket buyers Monday.

"We most definitely get a lot more when the jackpot gets higher," she said, adding that the store sold $3,500 worth of tickets for the game last week - when the jackpot was $275 million.

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At the Downsville General Store, customers were buying more tickets than usual last week as well, manager Maria Duhamel said. For Friday's drawing, she said, "we sold $900 worth just for Mega Millions." The store usually sells $25 to $30 worth of Mega Millions tickets per day, she said. By early afternoon Monday, the store had sold $100 in tickets.

Even as she spoke, a regular Mega Millions customer stopped in. Upon hearing the jackpot passed the $300 million mark, Albert Rowland of Hagerstown asked for three tickets.

"I play 'em all the time," Rowland said.

He's already had a bit of luck with the Mega Millions game - two weeks ago, he won $150 with a $1 ticket.

He bought the ticket "for a joke," he said, with change left over from another purchase. "I just said, 'Gimme a ticket,'" he said.

And if he won tonight?

"I'd fish my life away," he said.

Duhamel had already bought her tickets, and clerk Jackie Gipe said she was buying tickets, too.

"I'd put it all in my kids' names, in separate accounts" if she won, Duhamel said.

"I'd start a new life," Gipe said.

Regular customers at Alex Convenience Store in Boonsboro were spending more on Mega Millions this week, said owner Jung Ja Song. "Two-dollar customers are buying $5 this week," she said.

She bought a ticket, too. "I got lots of things to do" with the money, she said, including paying off debts for her business.

And she encouraged others to buy tickets, too. "You have to play to win, they say."

A second machine was to be installed today to handle ticket sales at Battlefield Market at Sharpsburg, clerks said. Today "will be the worst of it," said Linda Livering. She and co-worker Bev Stitely were part of a store pool, buying several tickets to split. But just to cover all the bases, they both said they were buying their own as well.

"I done bought two," Livering said.

At Classic Fuels on Sharpsburg Pike, "there are a lot of people buying $10 to $20 worth" of Mega Millions tickets, assistant manager Tammy Clark said. "There's even people coming from out of town, saying 'Maybe if we try someplace new' they'll win," she said.

Not to be left out, Clark said she was buying $20 worth herself. And if she wins, "I think a lot of it would go to charities and churches," she said.

No new car?

"I like the one I've got," she said.

Mega Millions is played in 12 states, including California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Tonight's drawing is at 11 p.m. in New York City's Times Square, according to the Mega Millions Web site.

This is the 12th time the jackpot has surpassed $109 million in its 10-year history, according to Gail Pelovitz of the Maryland State Lottery Agency.

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