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Forum and wire reports, Published March 31 2012

UPDATED: Kansas, Illinois, Maryland tickets share Mega Millions jackpot

Mega Millions results for $640M jackpot: 2-4-23-38-46 Mega Ball 23


CHICAGO — Lottery ticket-holders in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland each selected the winning numbers for the world record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, lottery officials said early Saturday.

Illinois’ winning ticket was sold in the small town of Red Bud, near St. Louis, and the winner used a quick pick to select the numbers, Illinois Lottery spokesman Mike Lang said. The Maryland Lottery said it sold a winning ticket at a retail store in Baltimore County.

A winning ticket also was purchased in northeast Kansas, according to the Kansas Lottery website. A spokeswoman didn't immediately return a message Saturday morning.

Each winning ticket was expected to be worth more than $213 million before taxes, Lang said. The winning numbers in Friday night's drawing were 02-04-23-38-46, and the Mega Ball 23.

Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett said the last time a ticket from the state won a major national jackpot was in 2008, when a ticket sold for $24 million.

“We're thrilled,” she said. “We're due and excited.”

The estimated jackpot dwarfs the previous $390 million record, which was split in 2007 by two winners who bought tickets in Georgia and New Jersey.

Across the country, Americans plunked down an estimated $1.5 billion in recent days on the longest of long shots: an infinitesimally small chance to win what could end up being the single biggest lottery payout the world has ever seen.

At the Tesoro gas station in downtown Fargo, the parking lot was filled to capacity most of Friday afternoon. Evonne Bartz of Casselton was there trying to play the geographic odds.

After buying 15 tickets in Moorhead earlier in the day, Bartz said she wanted to buy the same amount in Fargo. She figured tickets from two different states might boost her chances.

In Moorhead, lines at M & H on Main Avenue were practically out the door, with most customers purchasing at least a few tickets. Chris Heidrich of Fargo bought 10 of them, hoping he might be able to pay off his student loans if he won.

“I’m crossing my fingers,” he said. “That’s a lot of money to think about.”

For the states that participate, the money spent on lotto tickets is hardly a waste. It doesn’t all end up as the winner’s personal fortune – much of it is used by states to fund education and other social service programs, which is why advocates promote the lottery.

Though the specifics vary among the 42 participating states and the District of Columbia, only about half of ticket sales go into the actual jackpot. Another 35 percent goes to support government services and programs, while the rest funds lottery operating costs.

On Friday, the lottery estimated that total ticket sales for this jackpot, which has been building up since Jan. 28, will be about $1.46 billion, said Kelly Cripe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Lottery Commission.

You’re about 20,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than win the lottery, but that doesn’t matter to most people.

“Part of it is hope. ... The average person basically has no chance of making it really big, and buying a lottery ticket is a way of raising the ceiling on what could possibly happen to you, however unlikely it may be,” said George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied how rich and poor consumers make a choice to buy lottery tickets.

The odds are much better that someone will begin their weekend a winner. Aaron Abrams, a mathematician at Emory University, said he calculated that there was only a 6 percent chance that no one would hold the winning numbers.

“Every time the jackpot gets higher, more and more people buy tickets, which makes it more and more likely that someone will win,” Abrams said. “So the chance that it rolls over this many times in a row is very small. It’s quite a rare event.”

The estimated jackpot dwarfs the previous

$390 million record, which was split in 2007 by two winners who bought tickets in Georgia and New Jersey.

Forum reporter Sam Benshoof contributed to this report


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