DES MOINES, Iowa – The estimated $1.1 billion Mega Millions jackpot drawing has people lining up at stores across the country to buy tickets in hopes of winning the big prize, but store and gas station owners who sell the tickets also have a chance to win a big bonus .
State lotteries typically award business owners who sell winning jackpot tickets thousands of dollars, or even up to $1 million, before those giant prizes are even claimed.
FIRST EVER, WHAT’S LAST ON THE JACKPOT?
It seems like no one can hit the Mega Millions jackpot, so it just keeps growing. The last time someone beat odds of 1 in 302.6 million to win the top prize was on October 14th. Since then, there have been 24 consecutive draws and no one has won the jackpot. That prize is now the fifth-largest, though it’s still only half the size of the record $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot won just a couple of months ago by someone in California.
While it seems like an eternity since someone won, it’s a long way from the record of 41 consecutive draws, which has happened several times, most recently resulting in a California prize of 2.04 billion dollars.
AND WHO IS THE LUCKY CALIFORNIA?
It remains a mystery. The California Lottery has not announced a winner and says its policy is not to recognize that anyone has won a prize until the purported winning ticket has been verified. All that is clear is that the ticket matching all six numbers drawn on Nov. 9 was sold at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, an unincorporated community northeast of Los Angeles.
ONE WINNER AT ALTODEN IS OBVIOUS.
Even if we don’t know anything about the Powerball winner, we do know that service center owner Joe Chahayed was paid a $1 million bonus by lottery officials. Standing under a sign outside the lottery that read “Billionaire Made Here” and surrounded by dozens of media and well-wishers, Chahayed said he plans to spend the money on his five children and donate some of it to help his community. He did not know who bought the winning ticket.
“I wish I knew this person, but most of the people who buy tickets from me are from the nearby area. I hope that one of them will be the winner,” he said.
HOW DOES THE SELLER BONUS SYSTEM WORK?
Rules vary from state to state. Ohio, for example, pays up to $100,000 to retailers who sell jackpot tickets. In Illinois, retailers can receive a bonus of up to $500,000, while in California, the benefit reaches $1 million. State lotteries say it’s part of their efforts to encourage retailers to promote ticket sales. Some business owners say they also often see at least a temporary uptick in business as superstitious players stop to buy tickets at a place where someone has had success.
POWERBALL GETS BIGGER TOO
While the Mega Millions jackpot keeps getting bigger, the top prize in the Powerball game is also approaching massive status. Ahead of Monday night’s drawing, that prize is $340 million for players who choose to pay through an annuity distributed over 29 years.
WHEN YOU BUY A TICKET, DON’T FORGET…
Whether you spend $2 or $200 on Mega Millions or Powerball tickets, your odds of winning are incredibly slim. Powerball’s odds of 1 in 292.2 million are slightly better than Mega Millions, but still tiny. Can’t figure it out? Andrew Swift, a mathematics professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, put it another way, noting that the odds of winning for a person who bought one ticket in any game are slightly worse than if he flipped a coin and got heads 28 times in a row.
AND DON’T FORGET TOO
While the published annuity prize of $1.1 billion for a Mega Millions win or $340 million for a Powerball jackpot gets all the attention, winners rarely choose such a long-term payout option. They want their money right now. The payout is much smaller: $568.7 million for Mega Millions and $178.2 million for Powerball.
So, if you’re dreaming of buying a yacht, maybe settle for one instead of two.
Mega Millions is played in 45 states as well as Washington, DC and the US Virgin Islands.
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Lottery draw: $1.1 billion Mega Millions prize could also be a win for retailers
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