RED BUD, Ill. – The Mega Millions winners – at least three of them – stayed out of sight. The losers, who could number 100 million, had plenty to say Saturday about losing out on the world’s largest-ever lottery jackpot and their dashed dreams of colossal wealth.
Journalists descended on convenience stores in Illinois and Maryland, and lottery officials there and in Kansas proudly proclaimed they sold winning tickets in the $640 million world-record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot. The winners may get $213 million before taxes. Three other ticket holders became millionaires.
As the jackpot got bigger by the hour Thursday and Friday, Americans snapped up tickets while dreaming of quitting jobs, paying off debts, building hospitals, buying an island. On Saturday, they took to Twitter and Facebook to bemoan their lost, razor-thin chance at millions.
“I knew that when I bought the ticket, that I wouldn’t win. But I did it anyhow,” said Sean Flaherty, a video game tester in New York City. “The whole notion of ‘what if’ still has some currency with me.”
Even President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign tapped into the widespread lottery letdown. It sent a fundraising email with the subject “Jackpot” that began: “Yeah, we didn’t either.”
All told, Americans spent nearly $1.5 billion for a chance to hit the jackpot, which amounts to a $462 million lump sum and around $347 million after federal tax withholding. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $171 million less if your state also withholds taxes.
Illinois’ winner used a quick pick – an automatically generated set of digits – to select the winning numbers at a convenience store in the small town of Red Bud, south of St. Louis, Illinois Lottery spokesman Mike Lang said. The winning numbers also were purchased at a 7-Eleven in Milford Mill, Md., north of Baltimore, and somewhere in northeast Kansas.
“It’s just unbelievable. Everyone is wanting to know who it is,” said Denise Metzger, manager of the MotoMart where Illinois’ winning ticket was sold.
“All day yesterday I was selling tickets and I was hoping someone from Red Bud would win. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this. I’m just tickled pink,” added Metzger, whose store will receive $500,000 for selling the winning ticket, lottery officials said.
James Sitzes emerged from the MotoMart where he purchased six nonwinners. “I bought them at the right place,” he said with a shrug. Maryland does not require lottery winners to be identified; the Mega Millions winner can claim the prize anonymously. The store will receive a $100,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket, which was purchased Friday night.
The third winning ticket was purchased in northeast Kansas, but no other information would be released by the Kansas Lottery until the winner comes forward, spokeswoman Cara S. Sloan-Ramos said. The Kansas location that sold the ticket will receive $10,000.
Kansas law also allows lottery winners to remain anonymous, though lottery winners in Illinois are identified.
The winning numbers in Friday night’s drawing were 2-4-23-38-46, and the Mega Ball 23.
Even though just three tickets matched all the winning numbers, the jackpot made a millionaire of at least three other winners and gave a windfall to more than 100 others. Three ticket holders won $1 million each, and 158 won $250,000 for matching the first five numbers drawn, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association in Urbandale, Iowa.
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