Lotto grows; Californians cross fingers

A steady stream of potential millionaires flocked to stores across the Bay Area on Tuesday, all dreaming of winning nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in state lottery winnings.

With Tuesday night’s Mega Millions jackpot reaching $171 million and tonight’s SuperLotto Plus jackpot at $74 million, lottery officials said Lotto hype has been spreading to many households, offices — even bowling teams. An announcement on whether anyone won the Mega Millions jackpot is expected this morning.

“Anytime it gets over $100 million, we start to see more excitement. You start seeing little lines forming to buy tickets,” California Lottery spokeswoman Cathy Doyle Johnston said. “The other thing we see is people pooling their money [to buy tickets].”

Lottery officials say the odds of coming up with the winning combination for Mega Millions are 1 in 176 million. For SuperLotto Plus, odds are slightly better, 1 in 41 million.

Landscape foreman Fernando Sierra was among those feeling lucky Tuesday. While Sierra admitted the odds were bleak, he pointed out that someone had to win.

“Maybe it’ll be me,” he mused.

Long-shot chances didn’t deter Jim Oddie, who plunked down $40 at a 7-Eleven in The City. Oddie, who works nearby in the Financial District, was vying for the jackpot on Tuesday and will take his chances tonight.

“Even one-tenth of that would be nice,” he said.

D. Williams, who also works in the Financial District, said he only plays when the jackpot is exceptionally high. “I always put the same numbers down every time,” Williams said.

At Down/Town Liquors in South San Francisco, clerk Navdeep Singh said ticket sales were up 30 percent Tuesday from the previous day. Singh’s customers normally spend $1 or $2 on tickets, but were forking over $5 and $10 Tuesday, he said.

The California State Lottery contributes at least 34 cents of every dollar that players spend to public education, and returns more than 50 percent of sales to players in the form of prizes, Doyle Johnston said.

State lottery by the numbers

» Program inception: 1985

» Total sales to date: $52 billion-plus

» Amount contributed to public schools to date: $19 billion

» Retail locations statewide: 19,000

» Retailer compensation: $3.3 billion

» Percentage of total sales that go toward prizes: 50

– Source: California State Lottery

Examiner Staff Writer Alexandria Rocha contributed to this report.

tbarak@examiner.com

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