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Florida Lottery's Mega Millions begins with huge jackpot

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Published:   |   Updated: May 15, 2013 at 06:13 AM
TAMPA -

Call it psychology. Call it hope or greed or self-delusion.

However you look at it, the phenomenon associated with high jackpots is real. The odds might be the same — astronomically against winning — but once a particular lottery jackpot gets up into the multimillions, everyone starts playing. The regulars buy more tickets, and the occasional players succumb to the temptation as well.

The Florida Lottery will continue to cash in on that reality, debuting its seventh drawing game today, with the celebratory kickoff in Tampa. Tickets for the Friday night drawing of Mega Millions go on sale this morning across the Sunshine State with a jackpot that already has topped $170 million.

With a Powerball drawing tonight for a jackpot of $360 million, lottery officials are hoping the huge payouts for both games will feed a ticket-buying fever.

“This is interesting,” said Meagan Dougherty, spokeswoman for the Florida Lottery. “We are joining in at a time when both games have huge jackpots, and that creates a frenzy for our players who want to play big jackpot games. When the jackpots are high, that's when people who don't normally play participate.”

Florida joins 42 other states pushing Mega Millions mania.

Unlike Powerball, Mega Millions has a multiplier option that applies to nonjackpot wins.

Lesser prizes range from $2 to $250,000, or up to $1 million if the player purchases a multiplier option. Though overall odds of winning a prize in the game are 1 in 40, the odds of winning the jackpot are much worse: 1 in 176 million.

The Florida Lottery will kick-start the Mega Millions game at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Citrus Park today beginning at 10 a.m. Lottery Secretary Cynthia F. O'Connell is scheduled to be there.

Store manager Jessica Carro said she doesn't know why lottery officials picked her store. The store has only been open since March, and lottery ticket sales there are about average.

She said Mega Millions ticket sales likely will heat up, given its novelty and the jackpot offered.

Citrus Park resident Mark Borland stopped in to buy a Powerball ticket Tuesday afternoon.

“I'm not a gambler,” he said. “I don't go to casinos or anything or play the lottery much.”

But the lure of the $360 million Powerball jackpot was too much to resist.

Mega Millions tickets go on sale today, and here's how to play:

Buy a ticket for $1 and pick five numbers from 1 through 56, in any or all of the five panels in the upper play area, or mark the quick pick box to allow the terminal to pick random numbers for you.

Select the Mega Ball number, 1 through 46, in the lower play area or mark the quick pick box.

To win multiples of nonjackpot prizes, select the Megaplier box. Megaplier costs $1 more per play but applies to all panels and quick picks on the ticket. The multiplier could increase the winnings by two, three or four times and is determined in a drawing just before the regular drawing.

Review selections, as Mega Millions tickets cannot be canceled.

Drawing results are available on the Florida Lottery website, at lottery retailers and by calling (850) 921-7529. Drawings will be at 11 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. Tickets may be purchased until 10 p.m. on the night of the drawing.

All prizes must be claimed within 180 days of the winning drawing date, and all Mega Millions prizes must be claimed in the state where the ticket was purchased.


kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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