RED BUD, Ill. - Three lottery tickets sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland hit the world record-breaking $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, lottery officials said Saturday, dashing the get-rich-quick dreams of millions of players across the country.
Illinois' winner used a quick pick to select the winning numbers at a convenience store in the small town of Red Bud, near St. Louis, Illinois Lottery spokesman Mike Lang said. The winning numbers also sold at a 7-Eleven in Milford Mill, Md., north of Baltimore.
Each winning ticket was expected to be worth more than $213 million before taxes. The winners, for now, remain unidentified.
"It's just unbelievable. Everyone is wanting to know who it is," said Denise Metzger, manager of the Motomart where Illinois' winning ticket was sold. "All day yesterday I was selling tickets and I was hoping someone from Red Bud would win. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this. I'm just tickled pink."
Paramedic Dan Parrott walked away from the store with only $5 in winnings after checking his $40 worth of tickets, not enough for that new house, new car and the new ambulances he'd decided would help him spend the jackpot.
"I'd love to have all that money, but with all of that money comes responsibility," he said outside the store. "But it'd still be awesome."
The morning after the drawing, Americans were left with fantasies of what they would have done with more than half a billion dollars. Users posted their what-ifs on the AP's Facebook page, with dreams ranging from buying a house and paying off debts, giving money to New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward and buying an island in Southeast Asia. In New York City, Sean Flaherty hoped to spend fewer 12-hour days working as a video game tester.
"I knew that when I bought the ticket, that I wouldn't win," Flaherty said Saturday. "But I did it anyhow. Because, I don't know, it would be like Christmas."
In Maryland, television cameras descended on the 7-Eleven where the state's winning ticket was purchased. The harried manager repeatedly said "No interviews" to reporters pressing for details as customers pushed through the media crush for their morning coffee on Saturday.
Nyeri Murphy, holding two scratch-off tickets, said she normally plays Powerball but drove to a nearby county to buy $70 worth of Mega Millions tickets this week. "I should have bought them here," she said.
Maryland does not require lottery winners to be identified; the Mega Millions winner can claim the prize anonymously. The store will receive a $100,000 bonus for selling the winning ticket, which was purchased Friday night.
The third winning ticket was purchased in northeast Kansas, but no other information would be released by the Kansas Lottery until the winner comes forward, spokeswoman Cara S. Sloan-Ramos said.
No winner had contacted the agency by Saturday morning, Kansas Lottery Director Dennis Wilson said. "We sure want to meet the winner, but we want to tell them, sign the back of the ticket and secure it."
Kansas law also allows lottery winners to remain anonymous, though lottery winners in Illinois are identified.
The winning numbers in Friday night's drawing were 02-04-23-38-46, and the Mega Ball 23.
Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett said the last time a ticket from the state won a major national jackpot was in 2008, when a ticket won for $24 million.
"We're thrilled," she said. "We're due and excited."
The estimated jackpot dwarfs the previous $390 million record, which was split in 2007 by two winners who bought tickets in Georgia and New Jersey.
Americans spent nearly $1.5 billion for a chance to hit the jackpot, which amounts to a $462 million lump sum and around $347 million after federal tax withholding. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $171 million less if your state also withholds taxes.
From coast to coast, people stood in line at retail stores Friday for one last chance at striking it rich.
Maribeth Ptak, 31, of Milwaukee, said she only buys Mega Millions tickets when the jackpot is really big and she bought one Friday at a Milwaukee grocery store. She said she'd use the money to pay off bills, including school loans, and then she'd donate a good portion to charity.
"I know the odds are really not in my favor, but why not," she said.
Sawnya Castro, 31, of Dallas, bought $50 worth of tickets at a 7-Eleven. She figured she'd use the money to create a rescue society for Great Danes, fix up her grandmother's house, and perhaps even buy a bigger one for herself.
"Not too big -- I don't want that. Too much house to keep with," she said.
Willie Richards, who works for the U.S. Marshals Service at a federal courthouse in Atlanta, figured if there ever was a time to confront astronomical odds, it was when $640 million was at stake. He bought five tickets for Friday's drawing.
"When it gets as big as it is now, you'd be nuts not to play," he said. "You have to take a chance on Lady Luck."