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Lottery players dream of Mega Millions
Ticket sales brisk as jackpot hits $200 million for tonights drawing
Saqib Ali punches in numbers to print out a Mega Millions lottery ticket Thursday at the Chevron Food Mart on Thompson Bridge Road. The pot for the Mega Millions lottery, which will be drawn tonight, has hit $200 million. - photo by SARA GUEVARA
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Even when the economy is down, lottery sales are good.

"People may not buy food, but they will buy lottery (tickets)," said Akbar Dhannani, owner of the Chevron Food Mart on Thompson Bridge Road. "Lottery sales are very good."

With the lure of winning millions, it is no wonder so many people are purchasing tickets. One of the larger jackpots up for grabs is the estimated $200 million Mega Millions prize purse on the line for tonight’s drawing.

Mega Millions players buy $1 tickets that include five numbers and one Mega Ball number. Players can choose their own numbers or have the computer randomly select them. Though the goal is to match all of the numbers to win the big jackpot, players can also win smaller prizes for matching some of the numbers with the winning combination.

"People mostly let the (machine) pick their numbers," Dhannani said.

If you don’t play, you can’t win, which is why Gainesville resident Freida Sims was sure to purchase her tickets before tonight’s drawing.

"The most that I’ve won in the lottery is $2,500," Sims said.

There are two payment options for an individual Mega Millions winner who matches all five white ball numbers and the Mega Ball number. The lucky player could either get a lump sum payment worth $126 million, before taxes, or opt for 26 annual payments of around $7.6 million before taxes each year.

Players aren’t the only ones who benefit from hitting the jackpot. The retailer that sells the winning ticket can earn a $25,000 bonus; if there is more than one winning ticket sold, the bonus is split between the retailers.

Georgia Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday at 11 p.m. Tickets for the drawings may be purchased until 10:45 p.m. the day of the event.