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The Mega Millions jackpot that has set off a nationwide case of lotto mania rocketed to $640 million this morning, just hours before the historic drawing, lottery officials said.
The enormous prize brings a one-time cash option of an estimated $462 million before taxes, or a winner could choose annual payments of about $24 million before taxes for 26 years.
Sales close at 7:45 p.m. tonight, and the drawing in Atlanta for the multistate lotto is at 8 p.m. Mega Millions is played in 42 states — including Washington — as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to the Washington Lottery, the chance of winning Mega Millions is 1 in about 176 million.
Or as California statistician Mike Orkin, puts it: If you buy 50 tickets a week, you will win the jackpot every 68,000 years.
By ROB OLLIKAINEN
Peninsula Daily News
Lotto fever for the largest jackpot in history has swept across the North Olympic Peninsula.
Business was brisk Thursday as lottery outlets sold $1 tickets for tonight's $540 million Mega Millions jackpot.
“It's probably doubled, but by tomorrow, it will probably triple with last-minute people,” said Melody Megonigle, who works at the Road Runner Food Mart on Front Street in Port Angeles, on Thursday.
“It's going to be a very busy Friday.”
Customers who usually spend $5 on lotto tickets were shelling out $10, $20 and even $30 in hopes of hitting the jackpot, Megonigle said.
If business remains brisk in the 42 states, District of Columbia and U.S. Virgin Islands in which Mega Millions is played, the current estimated jackpot could rise by the time the game closes at 7:45 p.m. today.
“This is my first day back, but I know that I've sold quite a few this morning,” said Mel McCarthy, a cashier at the Port Townsend Penny Saver Mart on Sims Way.
“We are selling quite a few,” added Willa Fagan of Bill's Texaco in Forks.
The jackpot is considered the largest lotto jackpot in the world.
The $356 million Mega Millions jackpot rolled over Tuesday because no player had all six numbers, 09-19-34-44-51 and Mega Ball 24.
To win, a ticket must hit the five numbers plus the Mega Ball sixth number.
Those odds are one in 176 million, said Washington State Lottery officials.
A ticket winner has the option of taking the entire jackpot in a 26-year annuity, meaning that he or she would receive 26 equal payments totaling the jackpot after federal income taxes, or taking a lesser amount in a lump sum.
The estimated lump-sum cash value of today's jackpot was $389 million as of Thursday.
While no one won the big jackpot Tuesday night, several people picked five of the six numbers to win $250,000, and three of those winners were in Washington state.
The Washington Lottery said two of the quarter-million-dollar tickets were sold in Spokane and one in Ferndale.
In addition, a $10,000 prize was claimed Wednesday by a Naval Base Kitsap worker who played with a group of 28 friends.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.