- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

The winner of tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot, played in Maryland and Virginia and nine other states, could receive $290 million — the largest amount ever in the history of the game and second only to winnings in Big Game.

Yesterday alone, the jackpot climbed an additional $10 million.

“The jackpot’s increase demonstrates how strong Mega Millions sales have been, since Tuesday night’s drawing did not produce a top-tier winner,” said Maryland lottery director Buddy Roogow.

Mega Millions is still not the top jackpot in history. In May 2000, a Big Game winner took home $363 million, said Jimmy White, Maryland publicist for Mega Millions.

The drawing will be held 11 p.m. in New York’s Times Square. The odds of winning tonight are 135 million-to-one, Mr. White said.

Those odds were not discouraging to hopefuls buying tickets yesterday.

Cornell Jones, 46, who lives in the District, crossed the line into Silver Spring to buy a ticket at a 7-Eleven in the 7700 block of Georgia Avenue. “It might be my day,” he said. “When it gets up high, I buy if I can.”

“Oh yeah,” said 7-Eleven clerk Harage Geberamlak between customers. “More than usual buying tickets. Most of the people are buying five dollars’ [worth].”

But, Mega Millions sales were only slightly higher than usual for the day before a drawing, said Andy Bobrow, 44, manager of Elbe’s Kegs in the 2700 block of University Boulevard in Wheaton.

“This morning, all you’re going to get are old people,” Mr. Bobrow said. “People wait until the last minute. The majority will be here after four o’clock today and all day tomorrow.”

Standing nearby was Todd Coriaty, 32, distributor for Anheuser-Busch, whose daily route takes him all along Georgia Avenue. “I see them all up and down Georgia Avenue. They’re buying lotteries everywhere I go,” he said.

One mile away, lottery players as usual were in Kensington Pharmacy, at University and Connecticut avenues. “It will pick up 20 to 25 percent in the evening,” said William Bryan, an employee who has been selling Mega Million tickets for four years.

“Every day it comes out, I play,” said Irving McLamb, who once won $40.

Other Kensington Pharmacy employees said they sometimes buy Mega Millions tickets. “When it gets over $100 million,” said Allen Aku. “When it gets over $50 million,” said Brian Minnick.

Lottery sales were fairly normal yesterday at Kensington Mart, 10251 Kensington Parkway, where a $109 million ticket was sold April 9. Store co-owner Krish Divakar said some hopefuls spend $10 to $100 for Mega Millions tickets.

Miguel and Maria Bonilla, of Wheaton, had the Kensington Mart ticket that won. In Baltimore to collect, they chose $62,163,496.64 in cash instead of $109 million paid out over time. After taxes, they received $41,960,360.23, which they started spending on a new home, their four children’s education, a trip to Disney World and a trip to meet family in Australia.

“That’s the last time I saw him,” said Mr. Divakar of Mr. Bonilla, who used to get a cup of coffee on his way to work for a concrete company.

Maryland players have won Mega Millions jackpots nine times since 1996, Mr. White said. They are taking their chances with players in Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Georgia, Ohio, Texas, Michigan and Washington.

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