UPDATE: No one hit all the numbers in Tuesday night’s Mega Millions drawing, so the jackpot for Friday’s drawing has risen to $868 million ($494 million cash option).
If Ben Salazar of Omaha gets lucky with the Mega Millions lottery Tuesday night, don’t expect to hear from him again anytime soon.
“After I pick myself up off the floor, I’ll go claim my ticket. I won’t even tell my wife,” he joked as he bought two tickets over the noon hour Tuesday. “I’ll give her a call from … somewhere. And I won’t tell anyone else.”
Salazar was one of thousands of Nebraskans and Iowans who bought Mega Millions tickets ahead of Tuesday night’s 10 p.m. drawing. The jackpot reached an estimated $667 million Tuesday morning, the largest in its 22-year history, and it would be the third-largest jackpot ever in the U.S.
The Mega Millions grand prize has grown so large because no one has beaten the staggering odds of winning — 1 in 302.5 million — since July 24.
The drawing for Powerball, which currently has a $345 million jackpot, will take place Wednesday evening.
The Powerball jackpot is the 17th-largest in its history.
Between the two games, more than $1 billion is at stake.
“It’s unusual to see both of them grow this big,” said Neil Watson, a Nebraska Lottery spokesman.
Bigger jackpots draw office pools and occasional players, Watson said. Total Mega Millions sales in Nebraska stood at more than 48,000 at 3 p.m. — ahead of last Tuesday’s total sales of 39,388. Tuesdays and Fridays are traditionally the biggest days for Mega Millions sales because those are the days when drawings are held.
“We’re doing a little more sales than normal,” said Matt Mullen, manager of the Bucky’s on 13th Street near Interstate 80 in Omaha. “It doesn’t seem like it’s as busy as it could be.”
Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said ticket sales are up across the state. But she said Mega Millions, which has been sold in Nebraska and Iowa only since 2010, doesn’t always generate the same level of lotto fever as Powerball, which has been around for decades.
Jeri James picked up a single Powerball ticket Tuesday when she bought gas at Bucky’s.
“I buy when I happen to be in a convenience store,” James said. “And when there’s a big jackpot, I make sure to pick up a ticket.”
If she wins, James said she’ll make a big donation to a program that helps foster kids.
Ryan Johnson of Omaha, who bought a Mega Millions ticket at Bucky’s, said he, too, is another occasional ticket buyer. He has no idea what he would do with such a large jackpot.
“I can’t even fathom that,” he said.
The estimated jackpot refers to the annuity option, paid out over 29 years. Most winners take the cash option, which was at $380 million for Mega Millions on Tuesday.
Johnson said he knows the odds are good that he’ll wake up disappointed Wednesday morning. But he said it’s still worth $2 for a ticket.
“It’s worth it just to imagine,” he said.