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Gainesville residents catch Mega Millions fever

POSTED: December 17, 2013 1:19 p.m.

Tonight’s Mega Millions drawing is capturing the country’s imagination as the jackpot amount increased this morning from $586 million to an estimated $636 million. 

Gainesville isn’t immune from Mega Millions aspirations as residents flocked to local stores to buy what they hope is the winning ticket.

The current jackpot is the fourth largest in U.S. history and could rise one more time before tonight’s drawing.

Yogi Mody, clerk at the Texaco Food Mart, 272 Dawsonville Highway in Gainesvile, said ticket sales were “good” going into Monday afternoon.

Owner Tasir Latif said every time store employees have sold a ticket, they have wished the buyer “good luck.”

“We wish someone wins from the Gainesville area,” Latif said. 

He said signs were put on every gas pump to try to attract more people to play for the historic jackpot.

Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions, said ticket sales are ahead of projections for today’s drawing, increasing the likelihood it could shatter the current record of $656 million, set in a March 30, 2012, Mega Millions drawing.

Otto said it’s likely the jackpot will be increased again after lottery officials meet this morning to discuss sales. Between 65 and 70 percent of the roughly 259 million possible number combinations will be in play when the numbers are drawn, she estimated.

“Lotto players are procrastinators. They tend to buy on the day of the draw,” she said.

The large Mega Millions prize is the product of a major game revamp in October that dramatically lowered the odds of winning the jackpot. If a winner isn’t selected tonight and the jackpot rolls over past the next drawing scheduled Friday night, Otto predicts the jackpot will reach $1 billion on Christmas Eve— an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, the nation’s two main lottery games.

“We had predicted last week that if we are still on the same roll on Christmas Eve, we’ll definitely be over a billion,” she said.

The jackpot began rolling Oct. 4 and has rolled 21 times with no jackpot winner.

Even with the odds stacked against her, Terri Singleton said the estimated jackpot amount was large enough to get her to buy at least one ticket.

“I wish I could win. I would love to win,” she said on Monday. “I’m just taking a chance. I always play when (the jackpot) gets this high.

“If I could win this, there would be a lot of happy people. My family would be taken care of, along with many other people.”

Angela Hale, a teacher at Enota Multiple Intelligences Agency, said she only plays when the jackpot is large.

“I came in to get a newspaper and then decided to play,” Hale said. “I’m excited. I have nothing to lose. 

“If I won, I would give some (money) to the special education department (at her school). Give some to other people, and hopefully, I would invest the money wisely.”

She also said her family would be “ecstatic” if she had the winning numbers in tonight’s drawing. 

Tandi Reddick, communications director for the Georgia Lottery Corp., said it will update its website immediately after the drawing, and if anyone wins, officials will know.

She also said officials could not estimate how many people across the state would play tonight; however, she said the number of tickets sold in the state is “great news” for the education programs the corporation supports, which include the Georgia Hope Scholarship and Georgia Pre-K programs. 

The reason being all lottery ticket sales across the state go to fund those programs.

“This is great news for the students of Georgia and their families,” Reddick said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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