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Dreams of lottery bonanza entice Bay State’s hopefuls

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By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / January 4, 2011

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The State Lottery Commission projects that more than 6 million Mega Millions tickets will be sold statewide for tonight’s $330 million jackpot, as Bay Staters queue up at coffee shops and convenience stores hoping to score a life-altering cash payout.

With no jackpot winner for the $242 million New Year’s Eve drawing last week, the prize soared almost $50 million and then jumped higher as people rushed to play their lucky numbers. The prize could jump even higher today if ticket sales rise in the 42 states that have Mega Millions, according to Lottery officials.

Local lottery vendors expect to sell more than $24 million in tickets during the current 15-draw series, with $10 million in proceeds going to Massachusetts cities and towns.

“Intense sales continue to push the jackpot higher and higher,’’ the Lottery Commission’s executive director, Mark Cavanagh, said in a statement yesterday. “Most importantly, Bay State cities and towns have already won. We’ve raised $10 million for our 351 communities during this 15-draw series.’’

At the New Store on the Block on Dorchester Avenue yesterday, regular players forked over fives and tens for their quick picks in between Keno games.

Greg Maxwell, 55, of Dorchester said he would send his four children and four grandchildren to college. He would also help his family, which runs a farm in his native Barbados. He also said he would purchase two houses there.

“With that kind of money, why not?’’ Maxwell said. “And I would take a trip around the world and see the world, and I would keep myself fit and healthy and exercise.’’

The cashier, Carlos Rendon, 32, of Dorchester, joked about the freedom that $330 million could provide.

“I would quit my job,’’ he said.

“I wouldn’t change anything,’’ said Marlena Beazley, 50, of Uphams Corner, who added that she would buy some tickets again today. The mother of three and pharmacy technician at a local Walgreens said she would keep her job and remain in her apartment.

“I love where I live; it’s convenient to everything,’’ Beazley said. “I’d take care of my brother and my sister. I need a new car, so I’m working on that right now. Whatever it is, it’s going to be a red van. All I do is chauffeur everybody, so that wouldn’t stop.’’

Beazley said the massive jackpot motivates the Keno and scratch ticket player and confessed bingo junkie to play the higher-dollar, lower-odds Mega Millions game.

“I don’t usually splurge on the Mega Millions, but when it’s up high . . . ’’ she said. “I had $4 left, and my husband said, ‘Play the Mega Millions.’ ’’

Surajit Ray, 48, of Quincy said he planned to purchase his tickets, as well. He said he would use the money for his family.

“I went to college, so I would pay for my own family to go,’’ Ray said.

In Dorchester, family was a common theme.

Everyone said they would take care of their children, parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and others.

Ray did have one personal splurge in mind: “I would buy a Lamborghini,’’ he said.

Rendon said that his regular customers were coming in yesterday, buying two to three times as many tickets as they usually do. He expects large crowds today, as more regulars will mix with new players, motivated by the jackpot.

Rendon said he regularly sees customers buy as many as 100 tickets. The most he ever sold to one customer was 500, for an office pool during a previous nine-figure jackpot.

Ten other $300 million-plus jackpots have been awarded in the history of Mega Millions and Powerball.

The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever was $390 million, shared by winners in Georgia and New Jersey, in March 2007.

The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever awarded in Massachusetts was $294 million on July 2, 2004.

Lottery officials estimate that the lucky winner could take a cash option payout of $208.3 million.

The odds of matching all five numbers plus the Mega Ball and winning the jackpot are roughly 1 in 176 million.

The drawing will be aired tonight at 11:24 on Channel 5.

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com.