Winning tickets for $636M Mega Millions jackpot sold in California, Georgia
A message on the California Lottery's official Twitter account read "Check your tickets #SanJose because holiday luck has actually struck YOUR city!" California Lottery spokesman Alex Traverso told Reuters that the winning ticket was sold at a retail location on Tully Road in the Northern California city.
Later Tuesday, the Texas Lottery posted a message on its Twitter account saying that a winning ticket had been sold in Georgia, though that was not confirmed by Georgia Lottery officials.
The numbers, drawn at approximately 11 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday were 8, 14, 17, 20 and 39, with the Mega Ball number 7.
The top prize had been estimated at $586 million, but lottery officials increased their prediction to $636 million Tuesday morning because of strong ticket sales. The jackpot trailed only a $656 million Mega Millions pot that was sold in March 2012 as the biggest prize in U.S. lottery history.
Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning Tuesday's jackpot were about 1 in 259 million.
But that didn't stop aspiring multimillionaires from playing the game.
"Oh I think there's absolutely no way I am going to win this lottery," said Tanya Joosten, 39, an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who bought several tickets on Tuesday. "But it's hard for such a small amount of money to not take the chance."
Annie Pedersen also said she wanted to be part of the action, so she jumped in and bought two tickets at a Milwaukee grocery.
"Everybody is so excited about it so I wanted to get in on some of the excitement, too, by watching," she said.
Tickets sold at a pace that surpassed even the lottery's expectations.
"We estimate by drawing time we'll be about $75 million ahead in sales," said Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions.
Otto said officials expect about 70 percent of the possible number combinations to be purchased for Tuesday night's drawing. She also noted that if a winner isn't selected either Tuesday night or before Friday's drawing, the jackpot could hit $1 billion — an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, the nation's two main lottery games.
The cash option is estimated at $341 million, before taxes.
The previous odds of winning Mega Millions' top prize were roughly 1 in 176 million, nearly the same as Powerball, which also has seen a surge in large jackpots since its rules were revamped in January 2012.