Tickets sales increase along with record Mega Millions jackpot

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Would-be millionaires around the country scrambled for tickets Friday for the $230 million Mega Millions jackpot – the largest jackpot in that lottery’s history.

Friday’s huge jackpot led to higher ticket sales, despite the dismal chances of landing the winning ticket. The odds of winning the jackpot were one in 135,145,920, according the Mega Millions Web site.


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But that statistic isn’t deterring hopefuls in Suffolk – or anywhere else in the country – away from ticket sale counters. Several convenience stores in Suffolk have indicated that their Mega million ticket sales are at least double what they normally are.

&uot;There’s been a tidal wave of ticket-buyers coming through tonight,&uot; said Tony Maddox, a cashier at the Texaco convenience store in the Harbour View area. &uot;Anytime the jackpot gets over $100 million, things start popping.

&uot;We have been selling ticket after ticket all day long today.&uot;

One woman bought $220 worth of tickets, he added.

On the other side of the city, the lure of big winnings helped bring Diane Tatham to the ticket counter at 7-Eleven on Carolina Road.

&uot;I buy tickets every couple of weeks,&uot; the Suffolk resident said. &uot;The jackpot prompted me to come on and play this week.&uot;

But she added proudly that she held firm to her usual limit of $10 in tickets.

A van packed with shipyard workers heading home to North Carolina pulled off at the Miller Mart Friday afternoon. Workers clamored out of the van and one by one, began making ticket purchases.

&uot;I want a piece of the action,&uot; said one man, who refused to give his name as he pocketed 100 lottery numbers. &uot;I usually get tickets every week anyway. But I’m buying a lot more than usual tonight.

&uot;North Carolina needs to be involved in the lottery. I’m just giving my money to Virginia – but you do what you have to do.&uot;

The scene in Suffolk played out in states across the country in states that participate in the Mega Millions game.

In Georgia alone, more than $1 million in Mega Millions tickets were sold Friday before noon, said J.B. Landroche, spokesman for the Georgia Lottery. And that was before the peak time for ticket sales, which is in the evening, he said.

In Ohio, $5,550 in tickets were being sold each minute, said Mardele Cohen, spokeswoman for the Ohio Lottery.

&uot;It’s a chance to get something you don’t have,&uot; said Minnie Young, 65, of Dayton, Ohio, who bought five Mega Millions tickets. &uot;Somebody’s got to win. Why not me? I’ve got four sisters. I could give them the money too.&uot;

The drawing was scheduled for 11 p.m. Friday night at New York City’s Times Square.

The drawing for Mega Millions is usually held in Atlanta. But lottery officials had been waiting for a high jackpot to hold the drawing in Times Square, Landroche said.

The drawing will be held inside ABC studio at Times Square and ABC affiliates will carry the drawing live. If no one wins Friday’s jackpot, the drawing will continue to be held in Times Square until there is a winner, Landroche said.

Buying two tickets Friday morning at Jimbo’s, a convenience store across the street from the University of Georgia campus, student Cassie Kourelis said she had big plans if she won.

&uot;I’m going to get my mom back home with me, finish paying off college here, probably move away to some nice island where it’s warm,&uot; she said.

Lines of ticket buyers have been forming the past few days during lunch time and the early evening hours, Athens, Ga., convenience store owners and cashiers said.

But Naeem Jabaid, a Quick Pantry cashier, said his customers were mostly buying small amounts of tickets.

&uot;They are calm. They’re not buying like they used to buy _ a hundred, a hundred, a hundred,&uot; he said.

The Mega Millions lottery began in May 2002. States participating in the game are: Georgia, Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.