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Mega Millions jackpot soars to $636 million

By Barbara Rodriguez

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:00 a.m. HST, Dec 17, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa » The Mega Millions jackpot soared to an estimated $636 million on today, making it the second largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

The top prize had been estimated at $586 million, but lottery officials increased their prediction this morning because of strong ticket sales. The jackpot now trails only a $656 million Mega Millions pot that was sold in March 2012.

Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million.

But that hasn't stopped aspiring multimillionaires from playing the game.

"Oh I think there's absolutely no way I am going to win this lottery," said Tanya Joosten, 39, an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who bought several tickets today. "But it's hard for such a small amount of money to not take the chance."

Annie Pedersen also said she wanted to be part of the action, so she jumped in and bought two tickets at a Milwaukee grocery.

"Everybody is so excited about it so I wanted to get in on some of the excitement, too, by watching," she said.

Tickets are selling at a pace that surpassed even the lottery's expectations.

"We estimate by drawing time we'll be about $75 million ahead in sales," said Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions.

Otto said officials expect about 70 percent of the possible number combinations to be purchased for tonight's drawing. She also noted that if a winner isn't selected either tonight or for Friday's drawing, the jackpot could hit $1 billion — an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, the nation's two main lottery games.

The drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m. EST. The cash option is estimated at $341 million, before taxes.

The previous odds of winning Mega Millions' top prize were roughly 1 in 176 million, nearly the same as Powerball, which also has seen a surge in large jackpots since its rules were revamped in January 2012.

Mega Millions is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger contributed to this report from Milwaukee.

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iwanaknow wrote:
Hope the winner(s) come here and spend their new money?
on December 17,2013 | 09:02AM
paniolo wrote:
People don't realize that get a lot of winners. Plenty small winners, not only the BIG ONE. Saw on the news last night that $800 million a year is not claimed because people think they didn't win anything. Even if you don't get all 6 out of 6, if you get 5 out of 6 you probably get $1 million. One of the last Mega Millions or Powerball, had at least a dozen winners in different states winning $1 million each because they got 5 numbers, but didn't get the last bonus number. I heard people even win $50. Yeah, I hope any winner comes here and enjoy their winnings cuz we don't have a chance.
on December 17,2013 | 02:22PM
paniolo wrote:
Adding to my post, on evening news they showed a guy that won 3 big jackpots since 2009. He held a check for $1 million that he won. People in the store wanted to touch him for luck. Who said no chance of winning?
on December 17,2013 | 05:50PM
Snator wrote:
Even the Virgin Islands are in on the Mega Millions. Can't win if you don't play, and no play for Hawaii Nei.
on December 17,2013 | 09:59AM
Mei mei wrote:
on December 17,2013 | 10:39AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Why doesn't Hawaii have a lottery?? All these hypocrites saying that it is a sin or would lead to an addiction etc..etc.. blah..blah...All the monies it would make could go to fixing the schools and the university system. There is no valid reason why Hawaii can't have a lottery here or hook into the Mega Millions.
on December 17,2013 | 11:40AM
paniolo wrote:
Agree with you. And these naysayers are the ones that grumble the most because they have to pay higher taxes and how come the State shut down this department or that department, etc., etc., etc. If the people want to buy lottery tickets, it's THEIR money. Too many people getting into other people's business. Spend YOUR money the way you want and don't worry about how other people spend THEIRS.
on December 17,2013 | 12:18PM
iwanaknow wrote:
Perhaps buy a house or 3 in the nei?
on December 17,2013 | 11:44AM
Kealii wrote:
I wonder what the odds are of someone winning the jackpot tonight.
on December 17,2013 | 01:52PM
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