INDIANAPOLIS – Hundreds of Indiana residents dreaming of lottery riches lined up across the state Friday morning to get free tickets from the Hoosier Lottery for the record $640 million Mega Millions jackpot. Tens of thousands of others were expected to buy their own chance for instant wealth before the late-night drawing.
By early Friday afternoon, Mega Millions ticket sales in Indiana had topped $2.35 million for the day, eclipsing the state’s previous single-day record for the game just hours before the top lottery sales period, Hoosier Lottery spokesman Al Larsen said.
On the day of big drawings, sales typically surge during the evening hours as people make last-minute purchases.
“Our biggest sales time is still to come. That’s when people get off work and gear up for the drawing and go out and get their tickets,” he said.
In Indianapolis, 22-year-old college student Chris Stewart arrived at the Hoosier Lottery’s downtown headquarters at 6:30 a.m. Friday – two hours before its doors opened – to make sure he got one of the 540 fee tickets that lottery officials were giving away there as part of a lottery promotion. Stewart was the first in the line of about 60 people.
The business administration student, who bought five other tickets for Friday night’s drawing, knows the odds of winning are remote, but said he’s dreaming of instant wealth and buying a beautiful home. Beyond that, Stewart said he wasn’t sure what he would do with the staggering amount of cash.
“I’ve never seen a jackpot like this before. If I won – I mean, wow! I just don’t know what I’d do,” he said.
A few places behind Stewart in line, 45-year-old Marcie Stewart said she’d already given plenty of thought to what she would do with untold riches, starting with renting out Walt Disney World for herself and her relatives so they could enjoy the rides and sights all to themselves. She said she’d also give some money to her church, and do a lot of traveling.
“Then I’d buy myself a very large house with servants. I’d never have to do housework or anything again,” she said with a grin.
Larsen said the lottery was giving away free tickets at its headquarters and convenience stores in Evansville, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Terre Haute and the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville. At each location, 540 free tickets were up for grabs.
Free tickets were quickly snapped up at a Silver Express convenience store on Indianapolis’ west side, Larsen said. Lottery staff handed out 200 in the first seven minutes, and 500 in the first half-hour, he said.
In northern Indiana, South Bend area resident Robin Williams joined a crowd at a Phillips 66 station in Roseland to claim a ticket. She told WSBT-TV that if she won the jackpot, she would help out her relatives and friends and would start a program to revamp condemned homes to help families that are hurting in the current weak economy.
“And of course, my husband and I would travel all around, see all the NFL football games, and all that,” Williams said.
The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.
What are the odds?
Mike Catalano, chairman of the mathematics department at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., concedes the math is clear: The more tickets you buy, the better chances you have of winning.
But even buying 10 tickets filled out 10 different ways only increasing odds of winning the jackpot to 10 in 176 million.
"You are about 50 times as likely to get struck by lightning as to win the lottery, based on the 90 people a year getting struck by lightning," Catalano said. "Of course, if you buy 50 tickets, you've equalized your chances of winning the jackpot with getting struck by lightning."
Based on other U.S. averages, you're about 8,000 times more likely to be murdered than to win the lottery, and about 20,000 times more likely to die in a car crash than hit the lucky numbers, Catalano said.
"You might get some psychological enjoyment from playing the lottery, but from a financial standpoint ... you'd be much better off going to Las Vegas and playing blackjack or the slot machines," he said.