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Mega Millions lottery jackpot fever

Feb 19, 2004, 7:53 am

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Mega Millions

Have you bought your lottery ticket yet for the world's biggest lottery jackpot?  You still have time.

The Mega Millions Lottery jackpot is up to $215 Million, and is expected to climb even higher by Friday's drawing.

It is the 8th largest jackpot in history right now.

The state of Texas, which joined Mega Millions in December, is certainly pushing the jackpot even higher, with Texas players contributing between 12 percent and 15 percent of total sales, said Reagan Greer, executive director of the Texas Lottery Commission.

"We're in uncharted water. We've never seen anything like this," Greer said.  "There's a lot of people standing in line."

Once a jackpot exceeds $100 million, it feeds on itself, said Carolyn Hapeman, spokeswoman for the New York Lottery.

"Large populations mean more eligible ticket buyers, and more eligible ticket buyers means faster rollups, and faster rollups means more excitement," she said.  "The interest just increases exponentially."

Some states had been disappointed in Mega Millions' results since its start in 2002.  It hadn't produced a big winner like its predecessor, the Big Game, which holds the top two all-time lottery jackpots with a record of $363 million doled out in May 2000.

The Big Game became Mega Millions two years ago when New York, Ohio, and Washington joined.

Having more states in the Mega Millions game means the dollars are piling up faster than ever, said Penelope W. Kyle, president of Mega Millions and director of the Virginia Lottery.  It took 16 weeks for Mega Millions to reach its previous high of $180 million last June, but this time it only took 13 drawings to get to Tuesday's drawing of $177 million.

"Adding population helps you make bigger jumps.  The odds are that at some point in time, we would have gotten on a roll like this," Kyle said.

Among existing lottery games, the 26-member Powerball game holds the record for a single jackpot winner, with a $315 million prize awarded to one West Virginia man in December 2002.

"We've been lucky for 15 years," said Chuck Strutt, director of the Multi-state Lottery Association in Des Moines, Iowa, which runs Powerball.  "But we recognize that players are going to have fun wherever they can find it."

The Powerball jackpot currently stands at $35 million.

The chances of winning Mega Millions are 1 in 135 million.  By Friday's drawing, about 40 percent of the available numbers will be taken, Kyle said.

"When we have higher jackpots, we see a sharp increase in sales.  It just keeps going," said Anne Plohr, spokeswoman for the Illinois Lottery.  "But buying hundreds of dollars of tickets is not going to really improve your chances."

The states that play Mega Millions are Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

The results for the Friday Mega Millions drawing are carried live at BigGameLottery.com, which has been providing Mega Millions live drawing results, statistics, and news for four years.

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