Somebody walked into a Baltimore County 7-Eleven Friday evening and spent $1 on a Mega Millions ticket with randomly selected numbers. It turned out to be a winner of a record-breaking $640 million jackpot.
So far, that lucky person has not come forward, Maryland Lottery Director Stephen Martino said at a news conference held at the store on Liberty Road in Milford Mill. Winning tickets were also sold in Kansas and Illinois. The winners will split the jackpot, which is believed to be the single largest in world history.
The winning numbers are 2-4-23-38-46 and Mega Ball 23.
Carole Everett, a Maryland Lottery spokeswoman, said ticket sales for the Mega Millions game reached $11.8 million on Friday, more than doubling the state's previous one-day record of about $5.8 million.
Maryland will collect income tax on the winning ticket, but the total amount headed toward state coffers won't be known until the nationwide proceeds from the Mega Millions sales are calculated, Martino said.
"It's a tremendous opportunity," Martino said. "We're very excited that it happened in Maryland."
If the jackpot winners opt to take cash, rather than annual payouts, they'll split $462 million before taxes.
Though the identity of the real winner remains a mystery, the fact that the drawing took place on the weekend of April Fools' Day has spurred a number of Internet hoaxes.
Tom Kreft, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County used a computer program to edit one of his Mega Millions tickets to show the winning numbers and moved forward with the prank.
"First, I made a panicked fake Facebook status, saying things like 'I can't stop shaking' and 'I'm turning off my phone now,' " Kreft said in an email. He has a degree in video and film. "I guess that's where the Photoshop skills came in handy," he added.
Kreft said his friends "started freaking out," especially because one of the winning tickets came from Baltimore County. He continued to play the joke for three or four hours, before posting that it was a prank. By then, word had gotten out.
He's gotten calls from reporters across the United States and one from the United Kingdom. Several people on Twitter posted his account as news, which was also picked up in the blogosphere.
"Sorry to say it was a prank; all I won was a little attention," Kreft said.
At the 7-Eleven, Rodney Gould of Milford Mill was making no such claims.
He walked to the store Saturday morning to buy a pack of Halls cough drops for a sore throat and saw satellite trucks from national news outlets including CNN and ABC filling the parking lot and lining the street. He grabbed his chest and sighed when he heard the news.
Gould said he had three Mega Millions tickets, including one Thursday from the 7-Eleven and two others he bought at a shop down the road.
"I should have went there yesterday," he said.
As he stood in line to buy a few Mega Million tickets for the next drawing Tuesday, James Martin of Garrison quipped that the only network not clamoring to tell the story was the Cartoon Network. Though the new jackpot is much smaller at $12 million, he was willing to take a chance.
"Maybe lightning will strike twice," Martin said.
The jackpot had jumped by $100 million from Thursday to Friday alone as ticket sales reached a frenzy, and Maryland lottery officials had to stock retailers with extra rolls of paper to print tickets.
The biggest Mega Millions jackpot before Friday was $390 million, a record set in 2007.
Besides the jackpot, four other ticket holders are about to get a big payday. There were also four, $250,000 winning tickets sold in Maryland.
The Mega Millions game is played in 44 states and jurisdictions, also including Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.
Employees at the 7-Eleven in Milford Mill declined to comment Saturday. But Martino said the store has been owned by the same people for about 10 years. The owners will collect a $100,000 winning bonus, on top of the 5 cents retailers collect on every ticket sold, he said.
Terell Blackwell of Pikesville said he stops at the 7-Eleven on Liberty Road every day before he heads to work for Amtrak in Washington. He spent $20 on tickets, but he bought them from a gas station a few miles away.
"Maybe it's someone I know," Blackwell said, as his cell phone rang from a friend who saw him on TV in the background of a live shot from the store parking lot.
His advice for the winner: "Spread the wealth. Who can be selfish with all that money?"
Martino, the state's lottery director, has some recommendations for the winner as well.
"Our advice to the player is, safeguard the ticket, sign the back of it," Martino said. "We would encourage them to seek out legal and financial advice."
The odds of winning the jackpot were one in 176 million, Martino said. In Maryland, state law allows lottery winners to remain anonymous, unlike many other states that requires winners to come forward publicly.
"You have people who are wagering a very small amount of money against some very long odds for an extremely large prize," Martino said. "The nature of the lottery is, you're playing to dream. In this case, you're going to have somebody whose dreams are going to be realized."
Donald R. Watson Sr., a home improvement contractor from Randallstown stopped by the store on his way to a job site to buy more Mega Millions tickets. He had 40 for Friday's night drawing.
"It's just a shot," Watson said. "I work every day."
Whoever claims Friday's jackpot will join others in Maryland who have won big in recent years.
A $125 million Powerball ticket was sold in December at Wesley's restaurant and liquor store in Elkton. A $26 million Mega Millions jackpot-winning ticket was sold at Mace Liquors in Essex in 2007.
Ellwood August "Bunky" Bartlett and his wife, Denise, won $330 million from a Mega Millions ticket they bought five years ago at Walther Liquors in Nottingham.
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