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September 2, 2014

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Hundreds of dreamers line up for nanoscale shot at $640 million lottery jackpot

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Steve Marcus

People line up to buy Mega Millions lottery ticket at the Primm Valley Lotto Store across the state line at Primm Thursday, March 29, 2012. About 1,000 people were in line at about noon with a wait time of 4-5 hours. The jackpot had grown to $640 million on Friday.

Updated Friday, March 30, 2012 | 9:40 a.m.

Lotto Fever

Reinaldo Nunley, a Greyhound bus driver, displays his 56 Mega Millions lottery tickets at the Primm Valley Lotto Store across the state line at Primm Thursday, March 29, 2012. Nunley said he bought 56 tickets because 56 is a lucky number for him. Launch slideshow »

The line started forming early Thursday, with hundreds of people showing up at sunrise at the Primm Valley Lotto Store for a chance — albeit a miniscule one — to turn $1 into half a billion dollars.

Over the next several hours, the line swelled to more than 1,000 people, each anxiously awaiting the chance to buy a ticket for the record $540 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot — which grew to $640 million as of Friday morning.

“Everybody’s out here for the same reason. It’s all about the money,” said Tina Webler, a North Las Vegas resident who arrived at 7:30 a.m., half an hour before the lottery store opened.

The lottery lunacy was in full effect by midday, with people eating lunch, reading books and fastidiously filling out lottery tickets as they waited in a line that snaked around the store and out around the parking lot of the adjacent outlet mall.

The mood was festive as people excitedly discussed how they would spend their jackpot winnings, even though they had to wait upwards of four hours to enter the red-and-white lottery building near the Nevada-California border.

“I’m good at spending money. I could think of a couple things to do with (the jackpot),” said Ronald Finkelstein, a Las Vegas transplant originally from Florida. “I’d buy a house and move back to Florida.”

Because Nevada does not participate in the multistate lottery, many Las Vegas residents made the 40-minute trip south. The long lines surprised some, while others lamented that they couldn’t buy the tickets locally.

But all held out hope that the long wait would lead to a big payoff, even if the odds are against them.

“It’s an incomprehensible amount of money,” said Rosemary Martz, who traveled to Primm after her shift at Bellagio ended at 7 a.m.

Martz, who was standing in line with her friend Rachel Gibbons, planned to buy 12 tickets.

“We figure if we’re lucky, this will do,” she said. “We work at a casino, so we know about odds.”

Fifteen miles past Primm in Nipton, Calif., the lines for lottery tickets were shorter, but only by a little.

Gerald Freeman, who owns the Nipton Trading Post, estimated more than 3,000 people purchased tickets Wednesday at the store, with the wait averaging about one hour.

“Yesterday was probably the busiest that I’ve seen it since 1991. There was a lottery jackpot of over $100 million then, which was the largest it had ever been at that time,” Freeman said.

According to a spokeswoman for the California Lottery, the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 176 million. Tickets cost $1 each, and players choose five numbers from 1 to 56, plus a Mega number from 1 to 46.

The jackpot drawing will be 8 p.m. local time Friday, with ticket sales closing around 7:45 p.m.

If a player matches all six numbers, he or she will have the option to take the jackpot in 26 annual installments of about $20 million or a lump sum of $462 million.

Throughout the line at the Primm Valley store, those waiting to buy a ticket clung to the notion that somebody had to win the prize and it might as well be them.

“We need the money; times are hard,” said Michael Weisbein, a Las Vegas resident who said he’d never before bought lottery tickets in Primm. “This morning I woke up and said to my wife, ‘Let’s go on an adventure.’ We don’t gamble, but every once in a while you’ve got to put yourself out there and see if you can get lucky.”

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  1. <<Are these the unemployed looking for work with time on their hands? Are they the productive members of our society who are responsible for claims of increased productivity? Are these the ones who hope for manufacturing jobs to return and only come out to protest if their government benefits are threatened? Or all of the above>>

    Let me add to your list of people who are also buying these tickets: People who already make 6 figures a year like the network newscasters on every frickin' morning news program and late night talk show hosts, professional people who DO have jobs, ie doctors, lawyers, etc. So everyone gets caught up in the frenzy not just the ones you suggest, acejoker. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised to hear your Republican saviors haven't bought a few tickets. Let people dream.

    ALways a downer when you post. Lighten up a bit. Smile. Get a life with some purpose in it and quit looking down at everyone else.

    I have never read a post of yours that is positive or even funny. Just nasty, bordering on arrogance at times. If I had a choice to read yours or Herr Schillmoeller's posts, I'd read Schillmoeller's posts. At least he's amusing in a phycho sort of way.

  2. Just try to imagine what an impact winning such an amount of money would have on you and yours!
    It's the fantasy that is the appeal, and that crosses all lines.

  3. As long lines prove that there is a market for a lottery in Nevada . Lawmakers need to take notice . Lets make it a campaign issue .

  4. It is very likely at this point that there will be more than one winner. First, I just heard there is a 95% chance that the jackpot will be hit this time. Second, With so many tickets sold, many of the numbers are going to be duplicated.

    If you set aside the possibility of a shared prize, then a person who bought all possible combinations would triple their money (before taxes) if they took the annual payments. They would still more than double their money (before taxes) taking the lump sum.

    Simply put, the pots are very favorable for a $1 play, and still favorable for a $2 play. Because of the strong possibility of multiple winners it is not a good idea to plunk down $176M on all possible combinations. You would win, but not enough to cover your expense if shared.

  5. I agree with acejoker. Don't waste your time driving down to Stateline and standing in line for 4 plus hours to buy tickets. Don't go to Kingman either! Go to The Dam Store just past Mesquite in Littlefield, AZ. The time it takes to drive the 90 miles and back plus is a lot less than the 4 plus hours waiting in line at Stateline. The lines are not long at all and you can stop in Mesquite while you are out there. Plus there is more to do in Mesquite than Stateline. Or just ask a friend in AZ or CA to buy a $5 or $10 ticket for you. And if you go to AZ, buy Powerball tickets. Your odds are better since everybody is focused on the Megamillions.If you go to CA, but their Superlotto tickets, better odds on that game too.

  6. buttercup3381,

    My wife went to Baker yesterday based on what others had said but the word is out. The lines there are almost as bad as Primm. The only good part was that she was at a store that didn't close until 2AM. Primm closes at 8PM. Of course, that is a moot point today since sales for tonight cut off at 7:45PM.

    In other words, if you haven't got your ticket by now, you probably won't get one unless you have a friend in a state that sell tickets.

  7. Imagine, instead of picking numbers, certain individuals could purchase, by lottery, the right to be picked to duel to the death, to be televised to all the world to see, for the rights to $640 million? Such a scenario could garner book deals, movie rights, etc.. Oh wait.. never mind.

  8. Does anyone know if Nevada residents would have to pay California or Arizona state taxes if they won? (Although I am sure either of those states would automatically deduct those taxes whether or not they are justified in doing so.)