The largest lottery jackpot in US history totaling US$640 million has at least one winner and officials were waiting early yesterday to see if there were other winning tickets.
Maryland lottery officials announced that a winning ticket was purchased at a store in Baltimore County, though they had not identified the winner yet.
“This is truly remarkable and historic,” Maryland lottery director Stephen Martino said.
If there is more than one winning ticket with all six numbers of the Mega Millions lottery drawn on Friday night, the winners split the jackpot.
The winning numbers announced at the drawing in Atlanta were 2-4-23-38-46 and Mega Ball 23. It was expected to take hours to identify possible winners due to the sheer number of the US$1 tickets sold.
Odds of winning the entire jackpot are 175 million to one, said Margaret DeFrancisco, president and chief executive of the Georgia Lottery Corp.
If a single ticket matches all six winning numbers, the player would receive either a one-time payment of US$462 million or the full jackpot in 26 annual installment payments.
“There is a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement,” DeFrancisco said.
Buyers lined up this week across the US to purchase the lottery tickets.
“I’m going to pay off my law school loans,” one woman said.
Another woman said she drove to Colorado from Wyoming to buy tickets because the Mega Millions game is not available there.
The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was US$390 million in 2007, which was split between two ticketholders in Georgia and New Jersey.
About half the lottery money goes back to ticket holders in the form of winnings, 35 percent to state governments and 15 percent to retailer commissions and lottery operating expenses.
No matter who wins the jackpot, one certain winner is the US Internal Revenue Service. The tax-collecting agency subjects lottery winnings of more than US$5,000 to a 25 percent federal withholding tax.