Big jackpot draws hordes of potential Mega Millionaires

December 18, 2013

The odds were not in your favor: 1 in 258,890,850.

“You’re about 100 times more likely to die of a flesh-eating bacteria than you are to win the lottery,” Emory University mathematician Aaron Abrams told NPR.

But that didn’t stop people in 43 states — plus the District and the U.S. Virgin Islands — from flooding convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores and the like to take a shot at the second-largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history: $636 million.

That was the estimated size of Tuesday night’s Mega Millions jackpot — $20 million short of the record, set in March 2012, also by the multi-state Mega Millions game.

About 11 p.m., the winning numbers were released: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39, Mega Ball 7. And shortly thereafter, NBC Bay Area reported that at least one ticket was sold in California that matched all six winning numbers. And the Texas Lottery confirmed that a winning ticket was sold in Georgia.

Sales nationwide earlier Tuesday were averaging about $500,000 per minute, said Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery.

Otto said that in the Old Dominion, the Virginia Lottery was doing about $500,000 in Mega Millions business each hour. The Maryland Lottery sold $13,392 in Mega Millions tickets per minute and $223 worth each second between 6 and 7 p.m. — the state’s peak hour, director Stephen Martino said.

The District was chill and damp, but in spots, hope glowed and optimism glinted. James Taylor, who already had bought more than $35 in tickets, was buying more. “I just want to buy my mom a huge house in Potomac,” he said. Aside from the house, he added, with perhaps a trace of irony, he wanted to “spend lavishly.”

At a store on K Street NW, a woman said she, too, was drawn by the size of the prospective payout. “No,” she said, “I don’t play often.’’ But, she said, “it’s really big, and I’m really hopeful.”

Martin Weil contributed to this report.

J. Freedom du Lac is the editor of The Post's general assignment news desk. He was previously a Local enterprise reporter and, before that, the paper’s pop music critic.
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