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Mega Millions: Last-minute rush as jackpot drawing nears

March 30, 2012 |  4:41 pm

There was a last-minute rush for Mega Millions tickets in advance of the Friday evening drawing as the jackpot rose to $640 million.

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. Lines hours long have formed at places deemed “lucky retailers” by the lottery and stores like Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne that are known to sell winning tickets.

“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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-- Matt Stevens, Corina Knoll and Anna Gorman

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