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In Washington County, lottery players line up for chance at Mega jackpot

$250,000 ticket from last Friday's drawing sold in Hagerstown

January 03, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — It’s a one in 175 million chance that, at least for this week, many are willing to take.

The Mega Millions lottery jackpot has soared to $355 million with a $224.2 million cash option as a result of overwhelming sales this weekend, according to game offiicals.

The jackpot was initially estimated at about $330 million, but lottery officials decided late Tuesday morning to increase the prize to $355 million.

“Why am I buying a ticket? $330 million, that’s why,” Art Campbell said Monday as he bought $5 worth of tickets at Central City Liquors in Hagerstown.

The odds of matching five white balls and the Mega Ball in Tuesday night’s drawing are 1 in 175 million per $1 ticket, but that has not stopped people from playing.

Mega Millions is played in 42 jurisdictions, including Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to Lottery Spokeswoman Gail Pelovitz.

Tuesday night’s jackpot is the third-largest in Mega Millions history, according to a lottery news release. The largest was $390 million.

If the jackpot is hit in Maryland, it will be the largest ever won in the state, the release said.

The Maryland Lottery reported Monday that a $250,000 Mega Millions, second-tier winning ticket was sold Friday at Martin’s Food Market on North Pointe Drive in Hagerstown. The ticket had not been claimed as of Monday, lottery officials said.

The lure of $330 million convinced many people to buy a ticket Monday at Central City Liquors on the corner of Washington Street and Burhans Boulevard.

Central City Liquors sells the most Maryland Lottery tickets in the Hagerstown area,  Pelovitz said.

At the liquor store, employees have come to know the section of the store dedicated to lottery sales as the “lucky lottery lounge,” they said.

Signs outside the store let people know how big the jackpot has grown.

Kelly Collison, who handles most of the lottery sales at Central City Liquors, said she has been selling a lot of Mega Millions tickets recently. She said she expected to sell more Tuesday.  

With the jackpot this large, some people will buy on a whim, she said.

Like Frankie Smith, who said he never plays the lottery but came to the store Monday to buy tickets for himself and his wife.

Others who play frequently will buy even more tickets, Collison said.

“I had someone buy 12, $5 tickets,” she said. “There is a lady who comes in and buys for the people at her job. They do a group thing.”

“I bought $50 worth at Exxon today,” said Marty Wright, an employee at Central City Liquors.

Regardless of why they buy, nearly everyone spending $1 to $5 has thought about what they would do with the money if they won.

“If I win, there’s going to be a lot of people living a better life,” said Bob Artz, noting that he would give away some of the money.

Wright said he would give at least half of the money to local charities.

Gary Peck, who stopped in to buy beer and a lottery ticket, said he would give some to the employees at Central City Liquors to make their lives a little easier and spend the rest on his kids.

“I’d pay off some bills, buy a house and give money to a children’s hospital,” Collison said.

“I’d move somewhere warmer,” Smith said.

Pelovitz said the jackpot will climb higher if more people buy tickets and it is not won.

“But it only takes one ticket to win,” Peck said, giving his ticket a shake.

Mega Millions drawings are held Tuesday and Friday evenings.

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Editor's note - This story was edited Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, to update Tuesday's jackpot.

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