Mega Millions jackpot becomes temptingly big

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Before buying her Mega Millions lottery ticket this morning, Ruth Scott prayed that she would win the $400 million jackpot.

“You never know when your blessing will hit,” she said. “Even though gambling is a sin.”

If Ms. Scott gets lucky — really, really, really, really, really lucky — she could win a chunk of the $400 million. That’s the third largest jackpot in the game’s history and the sixth highest in the history of the United States.

The winning numbers will be announced on Tuesday. If no one is lucky enough to choose all six of the numbers, the jackpot will increase by a portion of ticket sales.

That’s how it’s been going since Jan. 7, when the contest started with a $15 million jackpot, Pennsylvania Lottery spokesperson Lauren Bottaro said.

Proceeds of ticket sales in Pennsylvania go to programs that benefit seniors, such as rent rebates, transportation services and the PACE medication assistance program.

The 7-Eleven on Wood Street, Downtown, where Ms. Scott bought her ticket, has braced itself for customers seeking the titanic jackpot. The employees are used to it. Whenever the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot gets big, an extra employee comes in to work a cash register. Sometimes, the line for tickets wraps around the store, employee Fareeha Sohail said.

Most customers buy a couple tickets, but there are some who leave with 60 or 70. It’s common for office workers to pool their money to buy a couple hundred.

This morning, some customers buying Mega Millions tickets made small talk with the cashiers about their luck. Other customers are more serious.

“They say, ‘Give me the winning number,’” employee Nishan Darji said.

If her prayer is answered, Ms. Scott, of Fineview, will use the money to move out of her public housing complex into a house with her fiance.

She’s feeling lucky. Her neuropathy — a diabetes-related nerve disorder that causes pain in her legs — has been mild lately. She takes that as a good sign.

According to the Mega Millions website, though, her chances are slim: the chance of winning the jackpot is one in 258 million. One is more likely to die from all sorts of catastrophies — lightning, dog attacks, tsunamis, fireworks mishaps — than to draw the winning ticket.

Glenn Liberi, of Crafton, bought two tickets from a CVS Pharmacy Downtown today. He plans to retire if he wins the $400 million. Does he think he’ll win?

“No,” he said, laughing.

Mr. Liberi, a maintenance worker, plays lottery games almost every day. He won $200 from a scratch-off a couple weeks ago, but he loses money overall.

He just likes the suspense, he said.


Richard Webner: rwebner@post-gazette.com.

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