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$100 million jackpot boosts demand for lottery tickets

Dec 23, 2003, 5:32 am

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Mega Millions

Abel Ybarra looks at the $1 Mega Millions lottery ticket that he purchased Monday night as an investment, not a waste of money.

Just like the stock market, you keep putting money in until you make a nice profit, Ybarra said, as he held his ticket outside the Supertrak convenience store in east Arlington.

"Buying cigarettes and beer is wasting money," said Ybarra, a warehouse inventory worker. "If I win, I would have become a millionaire on a $1 investment."

State lottery officials expect 3 million tickets to be sold in Texas for tonight's $100 million Mega Millions jackpot. Mega Millions began selling tickets in Texas Dec. 3.

This is Texas' largest lottery jackpot. Ticket holders here and in 10 other states -- Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Washington -- will try for a shot at the big prize.

Employees at other Arlington convenience stores also said they are beginning to sell more tickets but are waiting for today's turnout.

Lottery officials expect most of the tickets to be sold before tonight's drawing, said Bobby Heith, lottery commission spokesman. So far, 1.8 million tickets have been sold.

"The players seemed to be really active Sunday and Monday," Heith said. "It is encouraging because the more tickets we sell, the more revenue we generate for the state."

Texas' entry into the game was authorized this year by a Legislature that was faced with declining lottery sales and a burgeoning budget shortfall.

For $1, players pick five numbers from a field of 52 and a bonus number from a second field of 52. To win the jackpot, winners must match all five numbers in the first field and the bonus number. Players can win lesser sums by matching some of the numbers.

Hitting the Mega Millions jackpot is a 1-in-135,145,920 shot, according to odds printed on the back of the ticket. Texas has not produced a jackpot winner; more than 16,000 retailers in the state sell Mega Millions tickets.

In the past year, the average Mega Millions jackpot -- about $42 million -- has dwarfed the average Lotto Texas prize of about $14 million. The largest Texas jackpot before tonight's drawing was $85 million. Before Mega Millions, Texans had to go to Louisiana and New Mexico to participate in the multistate Powerball game.

Sales have been moderate at the Supertrak on East Pioneer Parkway in Arlington, manager Kent Roy said. A store printout shows that overall lottery ticket sales have nearly doubled -- to $1,040.50 from $538.50 -- from Nov. 16 to Dec. 16.

"I even purchased some tickets," Roy said. "You can't pass that jackpot amount up."

Texas is the only state to offer the Megaplier option, which allows players to double, triple or quadruple their winnings with an extra dollar per ticket. The Megaplier option does not apply to the jackpot.

Four people have won the $175,000 lower-tier prize, Heith said.

Robert Rippy said he knows the odds, but he isn't asking for much.

"After giving the church its 10 percent, I'll only need about $5 million to live on," said Rippy, an insurance agent. "I would give the rest away to the needy."

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