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Mar 30, 2012, 12:21 pm

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Mega Millions

Mega Millions buying frenzy sends jackpot beyond highest imagined amount

By Todd Northrop

Even the state lotteries offering Mega Millions did not imagine a jackpot this large.

When Mega Millions last changed its number matrix in June, 2005, the lotteries said that it created the possiblility "that could swell the game's jackpots as high as half a billion dollars."  (See Odds longer, prizes bigger as California joins Mega Millions, Lottery Post, June 22, 2005.)

Could they have imagined that the cash value of a jackpot would reach that high?  Or that it could produce an annuity worth $640 million?  Probably not.

But here it is, and everyone around the nation is talking about it — and buying crazy numbers of tickets.

The lotteries have had to revise the jackpot estimate an astonishing three times since early Wednesday morning, due to ticket sales that keep exceeding estimates.

"Huge doesn't begin to describe the size of this jackpot," said Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino. "We've actually had to deliver extra rolls of paper to our retailers to make sure they have enough to meet the demand for tickets."

The $640 million jackpot blows away the previous record by a whopping $250 million.  "This is about dreams," said Martino. "Even people who don't typically play begin envisioning what they would do with over half a billion dollars."

The rush of people trying to check their numbers on the Internet tonight will likely have most Web sites swamped.  Players are encouraged to check their numbers at USA Mega (, which tends to survive incredible traffic volumes better than most state lottery Web sites.

"Players checking online should hang in there and refresh their Web browser every so often until they get through to the site," said Todd Northrop, founder of Lottery Post and USA Mega.  "The rush of traffic happens right at 11:00 Eastern Time, so waiting a half hour or so before checking the numbers will probably be easiest."

In the meantime, lottery players dreaming about what $640 million means to them after taxes have been withheld can check USA Mega's Jackpot Analysis page, which provides the information for each individual state.

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