Lottery fever hits US as jackpots climb to $2.2bn
October 23 2018 12:49 AM
Signs display yesterday the jackpots for today’s Mega Millions and tomorrow’s Powerball lottery drawings in New York City.

By Gina Cherelus, Reuters /New York

Gregory Baron, 24, and Ben Nelson, 27, were eagerly purchasing $2 tickets yesterday for the Mega Millions jackpot in hopes of winning the record-setting $1.6bn prize and becoming among the richest people in the world.
“I would incorporate myself as a business and become my own company,” Baron said inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, adding that he would also pay off his student loans and parents’ mortgage and donate to charities if he wins.
“I would want to set myself up, but still be working so I don’t erode into nothingness,” Baron said.
Lottery players face long-shot odds of one in 303mn to win the Mega Millions drawing tonight. In comparison, the odds of getting killed by a shark are one in 3.7mn in a lifetime, according to the International Shark Attack File.
Mega Millions set a world record for lottery jackpots after there were no winning numbers for the $1bn prize on Friday.
The previous record was a $1.586bn jackpot for a Powerball drawing in 2016.
About 280mn tickets were sold for Friday’s drawing, with about 60% of all winning number combinations covered, said Seth Elkin, a spokesman for the Maryland Lottery.
Tickets sold for today’s drawing are expected to cover 75% of all possible number combinations, he said.
If a player hits all six numbers to win the jackpot, they can opt for an immediate cash payment of $904mn or receive the $1.6bn prize over 29 years.
Nelson, a post-production manager based in Manhattan, said if he wins the jackpot he would travel and buy a farm in northern California where he would raise Bernese Mountain Dogs.
“You’d get all the boring stuff out of the way early, then I’d make a feature film,” he added.
In Chicago, a crowded newsstand inside the city’s Ogilvie Transportation Center was unable to display the record-setting prize amount because $999mn was the highest number its electronic sign could show.
“It’s only $2. I’m spending my coffee money on this today,” said Rita Gomez, a 51-year-old self-described occasional lotto player who was purchasing tickets for herself, her sister and two friends at a convenience store in Chicago.
Tomorrow’s Powerball lottery prize stands at $620mn, making it the fifth largest jackpot in US history, after no one got all six numbers in Saturday’s drawing.
The lump sum cash payout is estimated at $354.3mn.
If there is more than one winner, the jackpot would be divided proportionately, as happened in 2012 with a Mega Millions jackpot of $656mn, a lottery official said.
Mega Millions tickets are sold in 44 US states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.
Several states allow online ticket purchases, but they prohibit out-of-state and foreign purchases.
Both lottery jackpots have been increased recently by rule changes that have reduced the odds of winning. The odds of winning Mega Millions were lowered a year ago from 1 in 259 mn to generate larger prizes.
“I’ll never win, but you gotta give it a shot,” Hank Kattan, 75, said in Manhattan. “I’d like to change my way of life.”

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