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Rush is on to become a lottery millionaire

Area residents line up for chance at $220 million jackpot

Area residents line up for chance at $220 million jackpot

February 19, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - Don't be surprised if the line at the gas station is a little longer than usual today.

With no jackpot winner since Jan. 1, the top prize in the multi-state lottery game Mega Millions has inched its way up to $220 million for tonight's drawing, and local businesses are expecting a last-minute rush.

"We'll be slammed here tomorrow," Sue Wiles, co-manager of the Liquor Locker on Dual Highway, said Monday.

Wiles said she notices a difference as soon as the jackpot reaches about $120 million.

"The higher it gets, it's like, 'Nobody won the last jackpot,' 'Oh, give me a ticket, give me a $5 one,'" Wiles said.

Mega Millions, a 12-state lottery game, is played by guessing the numbers on five white balls and one mega ball, with drawings each Tuesday and Friday. There are fixed-amount prizes ranging from $2 to $250,000 for partially correct combinations, but to win the jackpot, players must have all six numbers correct. The odds of doing that are 1 in 175,711,536, according to the Mega Millions Web site.

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A $220 million jackpot would be the ninth largest awarded by Mega Millions, according to the site. The largest Mega Millions jackpot awarded was $390 million split between winners in Georgia and New Jersey in March 2007.

At Central City Liquors in Hagerstown, Mega Millions sales had begun to pick up Monday in anticipation of tonight's drawing.

"It's been crazy," employee Kelly Collison said. One customer Monday afternoon purchased $89 worth of Mega Millions tickets for a pool of co-workers who each put in money to increase their collective chance of winning, Collison said.

Even lottery regulars said they play with greater fervor when the potential winnings reach record heights.

John Cromwell, 57, of Hagerstown, said he buys tickets from several places in a superstitious attempt to raise his odds. By the time he picked up a final set Monday evening at Liquor Locker, he had invested $20 in tonight's drawing.

He admits winning anything more than a few dollars is "a little far-fetched," but that doesn't keep him from dreaming the lottery player's dream.

"I don't think I've gotten out what I've put into it," he said. "I guess that's what a poor person does to try to get rich - luck our way up."

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