Mega Millions lottery ticket sales at "fever pitch" in Oklahoma
High hopes and dreams of early retirement and travel were on the minds of some Oklahoma City residents Friday as they bought themselves a chance at the $1 billion Mega Millions jackpot.
Just before 10 a.m. Friday, Wardell McGaha, 71, walked into a Shell gas station off Reno Avenue and Classen Boulevard with the hope he'd strike his fortune.
McGaha said he plays the lottery at least once a week and played earlier in the week when the jackpot had soared to nearly $670 million. With no jackpot winners, McGaha was back Friday.
“I couldn't tell you, I don't know,” McGaha said when asked about what he would do with the money if he won. After thinking about it for a few moments, he said a new house and a car would probably be on the agenda.
Aiss Ar, a cashier at the gas station, said as the number rises, so does business. On Thursday, the store sold about 1,100 tickets for the lottery, he said. But he's never seen lines out the door of his store like he often sees on television news reports when jackpots skyrocket.
Jay Finks, spokesman for the Oklahoma Lottery Commission, said lottery ticket sales are reaching a “fever pitch” across the state because of the historic Mega Millions jackpot combined with a sizeable Powerball jackpot.
In a typical week, the state sees an average of about $400,000 in ticket sales for Mega Millions, he said. By 3 p.m. Friday, the state had seen more than $3 million in ticket sales for Mega Millions this week.
Finks said there tends to be a strong uptick in ticket sales once the jackpot crosses the $400 million threshold. People who don't regularly play the lottery begin buying tickets, and office workers begin forming pools, he said. Because proceeds from the state lottery go toward education, those increased sales mean more revenue for Oklahoma schools, Finks said.
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At the Down Town Plaza convenience store near Broadway Avenue and NW 10, store manager Mobi said lottery tickets are a big seller.
“Whenever the jackpot crosses $400 or $500 million, our sales are usually double or triple,” he said. Normal lottery sales might reach only $500 before a drawing.
He said most of lottery ticket buyers are local office workers who pool their money together and usually buy the tickets after they get off work.
One such customer, who didn't want to be named, came to the store just after noon to purchase 192 tickets.
The man, who works in the construction industry, said 22 of the company's 24 employees pooled their money together for the big jackpot. He said it was only the second time in about two years they had made a mass purchase.
As for what would happen if they won, he said it would probably shut down the business.
"I'm sure people would call in rich, and it would be tough because we have to service our customers," he said. "It would be a challenge, but I'm willing to take it."
If he won, he said he didn't see any big purchases on the horizon. Just the opportunity to travel more with his wife.
At another gas station on Classen Boulevard and NW 31, Richie Cook, 54, of Tuttle, took his lunch break along with a couple of co-workers to buy a few tickets.
Without hesitation, Cook said the first thing he would do if he won was retire. An accountant in the city, Cook said he rarely plays, maybe once every year or two.
He said he hadn't given much thought to what else he would do with the money. Traveling with his wife would take priority, then maybe a couple of new cars.
When asked if had a winning grin planned, he said he hadn't thought of how he would react if he won.
“I haven't practiced it yet," he said, with a laugh. "I need to do that."