Not every Arkansan is excited about the $1.1 billion Mega Millions lottery drawing on Friday. Calvin Williams has had his fill of lottery fever.
A clerk at the Exxon gas station in the 5200 block of South University Avenue, Williams said lottery business is booming, putting undue stress on him and the station’s lottery ticket machine.
“If I ain’t complaining about that machine, something’s wrong,” said Williams, of Little Rock. “That’s how busy that machine gets, that’s how much I don’t like it.”
Because no one won Tuesday night’s $830 million Mega Millions jackpot drawing, the prize has increased to an estimated $1.1 billion with an expected cash value of $648.2 million for the drawing on Friday. According to a news release from Mega Millions, this is the second largest jackpot prize in Mega Millions history.
This would be the third time in the 20-year history of Mega Millions that the jackpot has surpassed the $1 billion mark, according to officials.
Mike Smith, gaming director for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, said the current jackpot run started at $20 million.
“The game is designed to create big jackpots; however, jackpots this big do not happen often,” he said.
Smith said ticket sales for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery and Mega Millions have been “very good” and “comparable” to previous high jackpots. “Mega Millions revenue month-to-date is over $5.5 million through Wednesday,” Smith said. “Total sales for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery are over $7 million week-to-date through Wednesday.”
According to a news release from Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, 35,138 winning Mega Millions tickets were sold in Arkansas for Tuesday night’s drawing paying out total winnings of $295,386 to people across the state.
Michael Dawkins of Little Rock was buying a lottery ticket for his mother at the Exxon gas station Thursday. He admits he had reservations when he initially heard about the prize.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that lucky, not in Arkansas,” Dawkins said.
Williams said he’s heard stories about people using their rent money to play the lottery, and when they lose, they often complain. He said this caused his boss to even take out the machine at one point.
“The machine could bring good and it could bring bad. It’s a gamble, that’s what it is.”
The record jackpot is $1.537 billion, which was won on Oct. 23, 2018. The winning ticket was sold in South Carolina. That prize remains the world’s largest lottery prize ever won on a single ticket.
The largest lottery jackpot in Arkansas was in 2017, when Lubbock, Texas, construction worker Eliburto Cantu won $177 million Mega Millions drawing after buying a winning ticket at a gas station in Stuttgart. His lump sum award was $73 million.
Ashley McNatt, marketing and advertising director for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, said a lot of people tend to go for the bigger jackpots and overlook the smaller ones.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is there are lower-tier prizes,” McNatt said. “So, a lot of people right now that are playing, are just playing because they know the jackpots are really high. And so a lot of times, people won’t even check their tickets for other number matches.”
The Mega Million tickets cost $2 and for $1 extra, players can add the Megaplier, which multiplies people’s winning amount, McNatt said.
While the chances of a person hitting the jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350, according to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery’s website, McNatt said people can still win “big” money even if it isn’t the jackpot.
“Mega has been rolling, it’s been increasing quite a bit over recent weeks. We’ve actually had two [one] million dollar winners out of [Tuesday’s] roll in Arkansas.”
Williams said the highest amount he’s witnessed someone win is about $78,000 a year and a half ago.
McNatt said an Arkansan hitting the jackpot would be impactful.
“Especially with the way the economy is right now, that would be life-changing for anybody in the state.”
Sylvia Mason of Chicago, who was at the Exxon station Thursday, agrees that an Arkansas winner would be a good thing. But she had a caveat to that.
“Instead of letting one person win it, I think they need to spread it to a whole lot of people. I just think it would be better if everyone could get a piece of the pie sometimes.”
Even though she plays the lottery sometimes, Mason said she won’t be participating in this drawing.
“We’re not rich, so your household comes first,” she said. “So, you play it when you can even though it’s only $1 or $2. But, playing it can become addictive and dollars add up, especially for people with kids.”
Tickets for Mega Millions will stop being sold at 9:45 p.m. on Friday.
Information for this story was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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