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Lure of the Jackpot

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Like millions of Americans with a buck in their pocket and dreams of winning last night’s mind-boggling $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, New Mexicans were out in force buying lottery tickets Friday.

“This is the first time I’ve bought a lottery ticket in about four years,” said Lee Calderwood, who had just bought 10 Mega Million tickets at the Chevron station north of Rio Grande Boulevard and Interstate 40.

“At my age, if I won it, I’d probably have a heart attack,” the 81-year-old retiree quipped. “And what good would the money be if you’re dead?”

The numbers drawn Friday night in Atlanta were 2-4-23-38-46, Mega Ball 23. An official with the Maryland lottery said a winning ticket was sold in Maryland and there could be others nationwide. The odds of hitting it big were 1-in-176 million.

Calderwood said she would probably give the tickets to her children. But if she decided to keep the winning ticket, she said she would set up a philanthropic foundation with half the money and give the U.S. government $50 million to help erase the national debt. “And that’s just because I’m so proud to be an American,” she said.

The remainder of the windfall, she said, she would share with her family.

“I’ve had a good life. I haven’t lacked anything. I have a warm house, I have food, I’ve traveled extensively, so I feel like I’m very, very blessed. It would probably be better for somebody who needs it more than me to win it. But it’s fun to try.”

New Mexico Lottery spokeswoman Linda Hamlin said that, as of 3 p.m. Friday, Mega Millions ticket sales in the state had hit $2.85 million since Tuesday’s drawing. Between 4 and 5 p.m. Friday, Mega Millions sales in the state averaged $4,592 per minute, she said.

Friday’s high volume of sales caused isolated problems for a few retail ticket terminals around the state, Hamlin said, but there were no systemwide problems.

“The few terminals that had problems were back online pretty quickly,” Hamlin said.

Mega Millions, played in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, holds drawings on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Tow truck driver Ray De Leon bought a single Mega Millions ticket when he stopped for gas at the Rio Grande station Friday afternoon.

“I did the Quick Pick,” De Leon said. “The odds are the same whatever numbers you pick.”

The Quick Pick option lets a computer randomly pick a player’s six Mega Millions numbers. “I just bought one. Why spend a hundred bucks?” De Leon said.

“I just hope the little guy wins it,” he said. “Heck, I’d be happy with half that much.”

If the winner of Friday’s jackpot takes the prize as a $462 million lump sum, the actual amount would works out to about $347 million after federal tax withholding. If it were won in New Mexico, the state would get another 6 percent. All applicable taxes are deducted before lottery winners get their checks.

Winners can also take the prize in 30 graduated payments over 29 years, but taxes are deducted from each payment. Most winners take the lump sum.

Albuquerque resident Alice Lorenz forked over $2 Friday and picked two sets of numbers.

She said she only buys lottery tickets when a jackpot is near a record high, and usually at smaller retailers, preferably while traveling.

“Someone who understands mathematics and odds once told me your chances are better that way, so I thought it’s worth a try,” Lorenz said.

Winning numbers are available at nmlottery.com, at all lottery retailers and by calling 3427529.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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