An air of excitement and wistful speculation surrounded lottery players across the state today, as the jackpot for the Mega Millions game climbed to $355 million in anticipation of tonight's drawing.
Across the country in 41 states and the District of Columbia today, 240,000 tickets a minute were being sold; sending the red hot jackpot to its third highest in game history, according to Massachusetts Lottery spokesman Dan Rosenfeld, with an estimated cash payout option of $220 million.
The drawing was held just after 11 tonight, but Rosenfeld said any information on the sale of winning tickets would not be released until Wednesday morning. The winning numbers were: 4-8-15-25-47 with a Megaball of 42.
"Sales are a lot higher than we anticipated,” Rosenfeld said tonight. "As of 6:45 p.m. we've sold nearly six million tickets in Massachusetts today alone."
The last drawing took place on New Year's Eve, and in just four days the jackpot has jumped by over $100 million dollars.
Tonight, many retailers said lottery sales were up significantly, as scores of would-be winners poured into convenience stores and other establishments to purchase last-minute tickets.
Andy Morgan, who works at the Common Ground Cafe in Methuen, said the atmosphere there has been chaotic.
"It is crazy," Morgan said. "You're just seeing all kinds of people coming in that don't normally play. Lots of new faces."
At Border Bets & Butts in Attleboro, Chris Thornhill said business was booming.
"Lots of different faces grabbing those Mega Millions tickets," he said. "But even the regular customers are buying more than usual."
Rosenfeld said the timing of the drawings, coming over the end of the holiday season, has been a boon to lottery sales.
“There’s a lot more commerce going on,” he said. “And when people are out more often, they buy more lottery tickets.”
Of course there’s also the sheer size of the potential winnings.
"Once it gets over $100 million, people really get into it," Rosenfeld said.
Massachusetts Lottery agents have sold about $26 million in tickets over the course of this 16-draw series, which has failed to yet produce a jackpot winner. The tickets have raised $11 million for cities and towns.
If no one wins tonight, the next drawing will take place on Friday. The odds of winning the top prize are approximately 1 in 176 million.
Previously, the largest Mega Millions prize ever won in Massachusetts was taken by then 67-year-old Geraldine "Gerry" Williams of Lowell, who hit the jackpot for $294 million in 2004.
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