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Mega Millions fever hits Southern California with $540 million pot

March 29, 2012 | 11:14 am

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The Mega Millions lottery jackpot eclipsed $500 million Thursday, setting what officials say is a world record and sending Southern Californians into a frenzy over the prospect of striking it rich.

The California Lottery website received more than 1 million page views Tuesday between 8 and 9 p.m. when the Mega Millions drawing, which produced no winners, was announced, said lottery spokesman Elias Dominguez.

He added that social media sites have been filled with pictures of people standing in lines that “you can’t see the end of.”

PHOTOS: Mega Millions fever

On Thursday, one such line was forming inside Midway Liquor Market on Pico Boulevard, where bottles of Cognac, whiskey and brandy line the wall. But lately, the focal point has been the lottery ticket dispenser behind the counter that prints out what customers hope will be a $540 million winner.

"Everybody's excited and they think they're going to get it," said Midway owner David Michael.

He had already served a few dozen people by mid-morning Thursday and expected a lot more customers after people finished work. Michael said his mostly immigrant clientele liked to use a combination of family birthdates when choosing their numbers and many dreamed of returning to their homelands with their winnings.

After owning the market for six years and never having had a major winner, Michael said he hopes one of his customers will get lucky because it would mean a $1 million payout to his store.

But Michael laughed and shook his head when talking about his regulars who are obsessed about playing the lottery.

"People are so greedy," he said. "They come here and ask 'How much is the lotto?' I say, '$7 million.' They say, 'No, I don't want it today.' Same with $15 million. Once it hits $100 million, they say, 'OK, I'll buy it!'"

Mega Millions tickets are available in 42 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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What to do if you win the Mega Millions lottery jackpot

Mega Millions lottery jackpot climbs to record $540 million

-- Corina Knoll in Harvard Heights and Matt Stevens

Photo: Patricia Satele, holding her lucky charm duck Patito, crosses her fingers Tuesday and store worker Jesus Vasques responds before punching out a Mega Millions ticket at Bluebird Liquor store in Hawthorne. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.

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