Mega Millions Offers Chance to Dream of Riches
Drawing for now $200M jackpot set for 11 p.m. as Baltimore County residents hope to be the next big winner.
Joan Neidhardt has been laid off or unemployed four times in the last six years and would like nothing more to put all of that hardship behind her going into 2011.
Neidhardt is a realist, but knows she would like nothing more than to win the Mega Millions jackpot tonight. The current estimated annuity value of the jackpot for the 11 p.m. drawing is $200 million with a cash option of $127.3 million
"The first thing I would do is pay off all my debts, invest in some upgrades to my home and car and bank a good deal of it for the uncertain future," Neidhardt said. "Beyond that maybe I would start a business of my own and spread some of it around to people and/or causes dear to my heart."
While the thought of instantly becoming a multi-millionaire sounds great, a person has a better chance of being struck by lightning than correctly picking the five numbers and the mega ball. Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett said the odds of winning the jackpot are 175 million to 1.
Still, she said that hasn't discouraged people from taking a chance at going for the big dollars. In Fiscal Year 2009, the state had $126 million in net sales of Mega Millions tickets.
"I'm always amazed how much more interest there is in the jackpots when they get close to $200 million," Everett said. "People don't think about how much $12 million — the minimum jackpot for Mega Millions — can also change their lives."
Everett said part of that mindset may be from the recent years' expansion of multi-state jackpot like Mega Millions and Powerball, which is also available in Maryland.
"People used to go crazy when it reached $100 million," Everett said. "I think now people have become somewhat desensitized to it, but the interest is still there and it's a fun way to take a chance of a lifetime."
Despite the long odds, Maryland has had its fair share of big winners through the years, especially in eastern Baltimore County.
In 2003, former postal worker Bernadette Geitka hit the $183 million jackpot — the biggest ever single winner in Maryland — after buying her ticket from Geresbeck's Food Market in Essex. In 2007, Ellwood August "Bunky" Bartlett won $48.6 million as one of four people to hit a $330 million jackpot after he bought his ticket at Walther Liquors in Nottingham.
Everett also pointed out that through Dec. 22, Maryland had sold 26 second-tier Mega Millions tickets worth $250,000 each and 121 third-tier tickets worth $10,000 each.
"It's important to always check your tickets even if you don't have all of the numbers right," Everett said. "We have several tickets still unclaimed worth $250,000 and that's a little scary to think about."
The winning, unclaimed $250,000 tickets were purchased Aug. 27 at Royal Farms on Washington Boulevard in Baltimore; Nov. 16 at Big Daddy's BBQ & Discount Liquors in Lanham, and on Dec. 21 at Chicken Man in Salisbury.
Prem Shah knows first-hand how exciting playing the Mega Millions can be. His family sold a $27 million winning ticket in 2007 at Mace Liquors in Essex.
"People still love playing the lottery," Shah said. "It's great publicity when people find out you sold a winning ticket. We always get a spike in sales when the jackpot gets this big. It's pretty exciting."