Mega Millions mania grips county

$500M jackpot inspires many to plunk down their dollars

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

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photoA sign at the S&S Quick Mart shows the highest amount ever for a Mega Millions jackpot.

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Denise Connolly has a plan if she wins the $500 million Mega Millions jackpot on Friday: Hop on a plane with her friend Linda Jacobs and head off on vacation.

She doesn’t know where she would go but she wouldn’t worry about packing. She’d buy everything she needs once she got there.

Realistically, she thinks things could end up a little different.

“I’d probably have a heart attack and not be able to spend it,” she said after buying five $1 tickets at the S&S Quick Mart on Northeast 28th Street near Orchards midday Wednesday.

She was one of many customers who stopped by the store to grab a ticket for a chance to win the largest lottery jackpot in North American history, which translates to a $359.4 Million lump sum.

“This is a record high,” said Arlen Har

ris, Washington lottery spokesman. “This is the largest jackpot in U.S. history.”

He said there is a chance that the payout will increase because of high ticket sales, but officials won’t know for sure until Friday morning.

Washington, one of 42 states that participate in the drawing along with Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands, was expected to see about a million ticket sales on Wednesday and almost 2 million on Friday, Harris said. “This is easily 20 times the usual sales.”

Mega Millions starts at 12 million and usually draws a few hundred thousand ticket sales in Washington. To play, people pick five numbers between 1 and 56 and one number between 1 and 46. Matching all six numbers in the drawing wins the jackpot. The odds of that happening are about 1 in 176 million.

Even with those odds, several people threw down a buck just in case.

“I think it will be real busy tomorrow (Thursday),” said Carrie Kennedy, who has worked at the front counter of the S&S Quick Mart for several years.

On Tuesday the store sold 993 tickets, which is a big jump from the usual sales, she said.

Most people play with random numbers, but a few, like Norbert Green, pick their numbers.

Green entered the door of the market after putting gas in his car and asked for help with the lottery.

“I’ve never done this before,” he told Kennedy.

He decided to try his luck after hearing about the record jackpot on TV.

He’s heard people say, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” He hoped beginners luck would help make his ticket the winning one.

“It would be awesome,” he said.

He wasn’t sure what he would do with the money but guessed he would like to help his family and other folks out.

As for Kennedy? She said she doesn’t usually play Mega Millions but she put $6 in this time. She said she would pay off her home and her son’s home and then buy a classic car.

The store was listed as one of the “Luckiest Stores” in Southwest Washington by the Washington lottery earlier in the year for having a large number of tickets worth $1,000 or more in 2011. It tied with the Winco Foods on Highway 99, a Fred Meyer in Longview and the Pacific Avenue Safeway in Woodland.

The top store in Southwest Washington is the Kelso Safeway. The Fred Meyer on Southeast McGillivray Boulevard in east Vancouver was listed as the second “Luckiest Store” in the area.