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$312 million jackpot causes residents to line up for Mega Millions tickets

March 25, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

The chance of winning is less than the odds of getting struck by lightning or attacked by a shark, but that didn't stop Tri-State area residents from lining up Friday to buy Mega Millions tickets for a chance to win the $312 million jackpot.

Hagerstown resident William Powell, 45, said he regularly buys a Mega Millions ticket. On Friday, he thought he'd bump up his chance of winning by buying four tickets at Central City Liquors on West Washington Street.

"I have as much a chance as anyone else," Powell said. "You can't win if you don't play."

Powell said he also bought a Powerball ticket for that game's drawing Saturday night. The Powerball jackpot is $125 million.

There has not been a Mega Millions top winner since the drawing Feb. 1.

Terry Stottlemyer, 56, of Hagerstown, said he has never won more than $10 playing the lottery. But if he wins Friday night's drawing, he said he would quit his job as a custodian and spend the rest of his days fishing and restoring his 1969 Camaro.

"I'd buy a house in the mountains somewhere with a trout stream on it," he said.

Powerball and Mega Millions ticket sales typically spike when the jackpot tops $100 million, said Kelly Collison, a lottery seller at Central City Liquors. In the first three hours of business Friday, she said the store sold about 80 Mega Millions and 60 Powerball tickets.

"They're buying $5 tickets and a lot of singles," Collison said. "Sales started increasing a few weeks ago."

Central City Liquors is a "super agent" with the Maryland Lottery, meaning it can cash winning tickets with a value of $5,000 or less, Collison said. Winning tickets that are worth more than $5,000 must be redeemed in Baltimore.

Although some ticket buyers said they would keep all of the money if they won, others said they would share their good tidings with family, friends and charitable causes.

"I just came to get a lucky ticket," said Kenneth Ellis, 63, of Maugansville, who bought five Mega Millions and five Powerball tickets. "I'll try to make all my family happy (if I win)."

Hagerstown resident Mollie Wood, 52, said she would buy a new car, put her children through college and donate a good portion of the rest of her winnings to diabetes research.

"I've had it since I was a child," she said.

At Murray's gas station in Williamsport, Mega Millions ticket sales are the heaviest at lunch and in the late afternoon when people are driving home from work, co-owner Michelle Murray said.

The gas station has never sold a major winning ticket, but a patron won $10,000 there a few years ago, Murray said.

She said now that the Mega Millions jackpot has topped $300 million, with a $198 million cash option, people are buying five tickets at a time.

Frank Bell, 83, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said Friday as he bought tickets at Murray's gas station that he has been playing the lottery for the past 50 years.

"I won $7 once," he said. "It's just a habit. I usually buy one every week."

He said winning the lottery Friday night would be a nice payback for all the years that he has played. But even if he wins, he said he wouldn't spend it on himself.

"There are too many charities to count," Bell said. "I'd give it away to everybody."

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What are the odds?

Chance of getting struck by lightning: 1 in 750,000.

Chance of getting attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million.

Chance of winning the Mega Millions drawing: 1 in 175.7 million.

Sources: The National Weather Service, the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File and the Mega Millions website.

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