People are piling into convenience stores and restaurants for a chance to win Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot, now estimated at $586 million, the fourth largest in U.S. history.
Terry Rice, 63, just hopes he gets something out of the $150 his work pool has invested in the drawing.
“$10 for a few million? Hell yeah, I’ll try that,” Rice said. “I’d just take a tenth of it – I’m not greedy.”
He said he plays the lottery “only when the pots get big.”
“It’s the thrill of winning,” he said. “If you don’t win, you just lose $10; it’s no biggie. It’s cheaper than going to a movie.”
Sales in Kansas for Friday’s drawing were just under $1 million, and lottery officials expect sales up to $2 million for Tuesday’s drawing, said Sally Lunsford, director of public affairs for the Kansas Lottery.
“Things are going to get crazy if it rolls again on Tuesday,” Lunsford 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 Tuesday night and it rolls over past the next drawing scheduled Friday night, some officials have predicted the jackpot will reach $1 billion – an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, the nation’s two main lottery games.
The largest prize so far was a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot on March 30, 2012. A Kansas resident won a third of that total, as the prize was split between three winners, Lunsford said.
“For a dollar, it’s a fun dream,” Lunsford said. “Somebody has to win it – that’s been proven right here in Kansas.”
The Mega Millions jackpot has been increasing since it was last won in Maryland on Oct. 1.
“It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” said Jaya Narsi, owner of Broadway Laundry and Dry Cleaning, 1827 S. Broadway.
Her store has sold winning tickets in the past, as her sign by the street boasts: “We sold the winning $200K Powerball tick.” It has seen its fair share of lottery hopefuls in the past few days, she said.
“After people get off work, they’ll rush in and ask, ‘Am I still in time for the drawing?’” she said. “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
Farther down Broadway, Heritage Restaurant, 4551 S. Broadway, is another draw for lottery players, manager Fae Montgomery said. The restaurant was recognized as the No. 1 ticket outlet in the state in 2012, Lunsford said. At any time, there are as many people playing the lottery as there are people eating at the restaurant.
John Kiser, 72, was at Heritage on Monday afternoon playing keno. He said he plans to buy tickets for the Mega Millions drawing on Tuesday. He said he used to purchase tickets “twice a week, every week,” though he said he’s not expecting to win anything.
“I used to tell the guys, ‘Boy, I need to win the lottery this week or I won’t be able to pay the bills next week,’” he said. “Of course, you’re only half joking when you say stuff like that.”
If he won, he said, he would buy new Jeeps for his wife, children and grandchildren.
“I’d be able to cut a good deal with Dawson Grimsley for a half-dozen cars,” Kiser said.
Tickets are $1 apiece, or $2 with a second chance multiplier.
The jackpot winner can choose to receive annual payments for the next 30 years or take the full amount home in a lump cash sum.
The odds of striking it big are 1 in roughly 259 million, but that does not stop ticket buyers from dreaming.
“If I won, I’d go into hiding,” Narsi said. “I wouldn’t tell anybody about it. It’d be awesome.”