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Local Lottery fever: Mega Millions jackpot hits record $540M

Madison Mathews • Mar 30, 2012 at 5:15 AM

What would you do with more than half a billion dollars?

That was the big question on most people’s minds Thursday as they lined up at convenience stores across the country buying up Mega Millions lottery tickets.

“The amount of money is so high that my entire family — and I have quite an extended family — would benefit from it because my luck extends to the family,” Sam Miller said Thursday when asked what he would do with a jackpot that’s estimated at $540 million.

The Mega Millions jackpot went up to $540 million Thursday, making it the largest lottery jackpot in world history, according to lottery officials. That record surpassed the previous amount of $390 million.

With a jackpot that high, Miller just had to get in on the action.

“The amount gets so high, you can’t afford not to, really. It’s a great little fun thing to do and if you don’t pay and play, you can’t win, so it just seemed to me like it’s a good thing to do right now,” he said moments after buying his ticket at One Stop.

That was the same mindset Harvey Grindstaff had when he purchased his Mega Millions ticket.

“I just like the chance to win. You’re not gonna win if you don’t play, and I just like a chance like everyone else. Somebody’s gotta win,” he said.

If Grindstaff wins that $540 million jackpot, he plans on giving about 90 percent of his winnings away to charities, his church and family.

“There’s a lot of needy people at this period that need stuff that’s really hurting right now. This country is hurting, people around this area is hurting and charities could use the money,” he said.

If one ticket matches all six numbers in the drawing for the jackpot, the winner would have the choice of receiving the full amount in 26 annual payments of about $20.7 million or a lump sum amount of $389.8 million.

The $540 million jackpot has been growing since late January. The jackpot has now rolled 18 times without a winner. The odds of winning are approximately one in 176 million.

Even with those kinds of odds, One Stop has seen a tremendous increase of lottery-buying traffic this week.

On Wednesday, about 180 tickets were sold. By noon Thursday, about 100 had already been purchased.

One Stop employee Linda Myatt said about two out of every five customers who have come in this week have been buying Mega Millions tickets.

“It’s just a dollar to do it and you might get lucky. I mean, I bought five last night,” she said.

And what would she do with that kind of money?

“I’ve got family that lives away from here and I worry about my mom a lot, so I’d probably get her set up and maybe move her closer to me and take care of myself, too,” Myatt said.

The drawing will be held tonight at 11.

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