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Mega Millions: Even Beverly Hills caught up in lottery frenzy

March 30, 2012 |  9:22 am

As the jackpot for Friday's Mega Millions draw vaulted past half a billion dollars -- making it the largest lottery jackpot in world history -- hopeful ticket buyers bought and bought. They spanned the spectrum of class and geography. They even bought in Beverly Hills.

Michael Steinberg pulled up to a Beverly Hills gas station Thursday afternoon in a gleaming ebony Porsche Carrera, walked inside and started filling out Mega Millions lottery tickets. The 71-year-old contractor said his luxury car and 90210 ZIP code don't separate him from the less fortunate when it comes to a half-billion-dollar payday.

"I'd like you to show me somebody who can't make use of $540 million," Steinberg said. "And not everyone who lives in Beverly Hills is a millionaire."

PHOTOS: Mega Millions fever

Steinberg purchased $100 worth of tickets, using Quick Pick for all but two, which had specific numbers given to him by his girlfriend.

"We'll split the winnings but at one point my greed got the better of me and I thought, should we really partner up?" he said, laughing.

Steinberg, who rents an apartment, said he would build a house in the area with his winnings and maybe purchase property in Hawaii. He'd also like to take a trip around the world, buy a Ferrari, send money to his two grown sons and donate money to 12-step programs.

Friends have also bought tickets, but Steinberg admits that lotto fever is more muted within upscale neighborhoods.

"It's exciting in a fun sort of way, but no one I know is betting their life on it. I'll be OK if I don't win."

The odds are against him. You are 19 times as likely to be struck by lightning twice, 33 times as likely to be killed in the next year by bees and 40 times as likely to be dealt five blackjacks in a row as you are to win Mega Millions.

By the numbers, you have a 1 in 175,711,536 chance of picking the winning numbers and scoring a record $540-million jackpot.

Put another way: If you buy 50 tickets a week, you will win the jackpot every 68,000 years.

Charlie Blair began playing the lottery this week after he noticed the jackpot had hit $500 million.  That's when the 70-year-old man headed to a Shell gas station on Vermont Avenue, close to his Koreatown apartment, to buy a single ticket.

"It's so high -- I mean, that's astronomical!" the retired mechanical engineer said. "You can't beat the investment: $1 for such a high return."


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-- Corina Knoll