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Mega Millions: 5-hour waits as players flood 'lucky' store

March 30, 2012 |  6:22 pm

Long lines were forming at stores across Southern California on Friday evening, with less than two hours to go before the drawing for a Mega Millions jackpot worth at least $640 million.

The jackpot, said to be the largest on record in the United States, brought a flood of last-minute buyers to stores.

According to KTLA News, people waited for up to five hours to get tickets from Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne. The store, which has been the source of several winning tickets over the years, sold 10,000 tickets in the first hour and a half after it opened Friday.

The enormous prize brings a one-time cash option of an estimated $462 million before taxes. Or a winner could choose annual payments of about $24 million before taxes for 26 years.

Abbas Moussawi stood behind a counter of glass hookahs at G and R Smoke in Manhattan Beach, pondering what he would do if one of the 20 lottery tickets he plans on buying hit the jackpot.

“I’m going to buy a house in Bel-Air,” the Lebanese immigrant said. “But 80% of it is going to the poor all over the world. I’m not greedy, man. I’d be more than happy with 20%."

At a nearby 7-Eleven, where a steady stream of customers were lined up, Devinder Chandha said he was selling 10 times more lottery tickets than usual.

“By 6 o’clock, it will be 20 times,” he said.

 PHOTOS: Mega Millions fever

Lotto fever struck the Southland soon after officials announced that there was no winner in Tuesday’s $363-million drawing. Officials say they have met every night since Tuesday and watched the number grow from $540 million Thursday to the astronomical figured released Friday.

"This is history, and we’re enjoying it," California Lottery spokeswoman Donna Cordova said Friday. "This is just a shared moment for the entire country. We’re rolling into uncharted territory here."

More tickets are expected to be sold before the 8 p.m. drawing.

“It’s so high — I mean, that’s astronomical,” said Charlie Blair, 70, a retired mechanical engineer.

Blair had never played the lottery until he heard about the record payout, and he headed to a gas station near his Koreatown apartment Thursday to buy a single ticket.

According to the California Lottery, the chance of winning Mega Millions is 1 in about 176 million.

Or as California statistician Mike Orkin, puts it: If you buy 50 tickets a week, you will win the jackpot every 68,000 years.


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Mega Millions: Odds of winning jackpot don't deter players

-- Matt Stevens, Corina Knoll and Anna Gorman

Photo: A man makes his lottery picks. Credit: Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images