Like the old adage says, you’ve got to spend money to make money, and folks in Kokomo are taking that proverbial wisdom seriously when it comes to slapping down cash to win the largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.
The Hoosier Lottery Thursday bumped up the estimated Mega Millions jackpot to $640 million. Tickets sales have soared since Tuesday, when the estimated sum stood at $363 million.
The drawing is 11 p.m. today.
“It’s truly outrageous,” said Monica Mossholder, a supervisor at the Marathon gas station on East Markland Avenue.
She said Mega Millions ticket sales have more than doubled at the station since Wednesday.
The Village Pantry on the corner of Apperson Way and Morgan Street reported Thursday one person single-handedly bought 260 tickets.
That number was even bigger at Gas America on U.S. 31. Cashier Beth Ochoa said one woman came to the station Wednesday evening and shelled out $450 for a lottery pool at work.
The trend isn’t just in Kokomo. Al Larsen, a spokesman for the Hoosier Lottery, said folks statewide have dumped $900,000 into tickets just on Wednesday. In the four days leading up to the Tuesday drawing, he said Hoosiers spent $2.3 million.
Sales are big, but that isn’t too surprising considering the estimated cash option is over $360 million. Winners can also choose to take yearly payments of $19.2 million over a 26-year period.
Larsen said the last person to win was on Jan. 24, when the jackpot was “only” $74 million. Over the last two months, it’s gradually climbed from the default $12 million jackpot.
He said the previous Mega Million high was $390 million in 2007.
On Thursday afternoon, Richard Ellis, a retired Chrysler employee, stood by his truck in the Gas America parking lot waiting as his wife, Linda, walked out from the convenience store with two tickets.
If he won the jackpot, Ellis said he’d buy chunks of land in Wyoming, Arizona and Florida and head for the great-outdoors.
“I’d love to win all that money, but I’d be happy with $1 million,” he said. “Heck, I’d be happy with $500.”
Mossholder said she wouldn’t even know what to do with all the money, added she didn’t expect to hit it big.
“Knowing my luck, even if I did win, I’d probably faint and die before I could go out and spend it,” she said.
But Ellis took the more optimistic, philosophical view that most Hoosiers probably have when slapping down money for tickets.
“For a dollar, at least I have my toe in the pie,” he said. “I already pay a ton in taxes, so what’s another dollar?”
• Carson Gerber, Tribune reporter, may be reached by calling 765-854-6739 or via email at email@example.com.