By Jon Meoli, email@example.com
12:06 PM EDT, March 30, 2012
Odds of winning? Roughly 175-million-to-1.
Odds of missing part of the work day while standing in line to get a Mega Millions ticket?
On Friday at locations around the county, state and nation, people are standing in queue with the hopes of cashing on the largest lottery jackpot ever — $540 million (so far) in the multi-state Mega Millions lottery.
As customers exited the 7-Eleven on Charles Street in Towson on Friday morning, their usual coffees and energy drinks were accompanied by a lottery ticket or two.
"Why not?" said Stephanie Papadopolous, of Towson, who stopped on her way to chaperon her child's field trip.
"I'll probably die of a flesh-eating disease before I win this, but if I win, I'll donate a lot of this to charity," she said.
Nunzio Bonaccorsi, of Edgewater, said he had already purchased his tickets back home on Thursday.
He said he wouldn't call himself a "regular" lottery player, but when the potential payoff crosses the half-a-billion dollar threshold, "how can you pass this up?" he asked.
Indeed, even casual players were hedging their bets on a pot that would be life-changing ... to the 540 millionth degree.
Dan Courtney, a Rodgers Forge resident, came out of the 7-Eleven with five tickets — which he said will accompany the five his wife will buy later as well.
Others at the store, though, weren't as open about their purchases. One woman, who declined to be identified, said she bought her first three lottery tickets ever, and she wasn't proud of being caught up in lottery fever.
"It's my co-workers," she said. "They're a bad influence."
The multi-state Mega Millions game is played in 44 states and jurisdictions — including Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.
"Huge doesn't begin to describe the size of this jackpot," said Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino in a press statement about the lottery mania. "We've actually had to deliver extra rolls of paper to our retailers to make sure they have enough to meet the demand for tickets."
"This is about dreams," Martino said. "Even people who don't typically play begin envisioning what they would do with over half a billion dollars."
In addition to being a boon to people's daydreams, the Mega Millions rush is also good for lottery businesses — retailers receiving 5 percent of each ticket sold, and the retailer who sells the winning ticket will receive an agent bonus of $100,000.
The drawing can be seen tonight, Friday, march 30, at 11:22 p.m. on WBAL-TV, Channel 11 and at 11:53 p.m. on MPT. Additionally, results can be seen on the Maryland Lottery website at mdlottery.com.
The $540 million is the largest single jackpot ever, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to overall lottery awards. Maryland Lottery officials note that since its inception in 1973, the Maryland Lottery has awarded more than $18.73 billion in prizes to players.
What Do You Think? ... will the $540 million jackpot prompt you to purchase a ticket or two before Friday night's drawing? If you won, what would you do with $540 million?