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$262M jackpot sparked buying frenzy

Nov 11, 2005, 11:15 pm

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Mega Millions

If people seemed overwhelmed by lottery fever this week, it's for good reason.

The estimated $262 million jackpot in the Mega Millions game reached the fourth-largest total in Georgia's history.

"We've sold quite a few (tickets)," said Donna King, the shift leader at the BP station at the corner of Shurling Drive and Gray Highway in Macon. "We usually do good on the Mega Millions. People won't start playing 'til it gets to a certain amount."

That was the case for Faye Coley of Macon, who purchased a ticket Thursday afternoon.

"I just buy it when it gets big like this," said Coley, who doesn't play specific numbers. "When it gets to 20-something (million), when it gets up big, that's when most people want to buy one."

The Mega Millions game also is played in California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The largest lottery prize in both Georgia and U.S. history was the $363 million jackpot for the Big Game in 2000. Georgia switched from the Big Game to Mega Millions in May 2002.

The largest Mega Millions prize total was $294 million earlier this year. But given the rate tickets were still being snapped up, it's conceivable that the current Mega Millions jackpot could surpass it if it rolls over again.

The largest pot won by a Georgian was by Stephen Moore of Fitzgerald, who won the Mega Millions prize of $150 million in 2003. Moore opted for the cash payment, so he took home about $86 million. The last Georgian to win the Mega Millions game was Margaret Jones of Washington, who won $130 million in January.

J.R. Fogarty doesn't play the lottery very often, but he picked up a ticket Thursday afternoon.

"I'm not a regular customer," he said. "I don't worry about the amount. Whenever I happen to be here, I might get a ticket. I know the lottery needs the money, so I made a donation."

According to J.B. Landroche, vice president of corporate affairs for the Georgia Lottery, the state sold more than 500,000 Mega Millions tickets Thursday and more than a million for the week.

"The sales tend to pick up on the day of the drawing itself," he said. "There's still a chance to take a chance and spend $1."

The current $262 million jackpot has been growing since Sept. 16 and has rolled over 15 times.

The most Coley has ever won from the lottery is $100 from a scratch-off ticket. She wouldn't mind getting more tonight from her quick-pick ticket in the Mega Millions.

"I hope this is the winning ticket," she said with a grin.

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