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Published: Friday, 3/30/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Mega Millions $540M prize feeds fortune of dreams and local sales

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tony Geronimo, left, of Toledo buys his lottery tickets from Adam Saw, manager of Ray's Party Store in East Toledo. Mr. Geronimo doubled his $5 ticket buy.the blade/amy E. Voigt Tony Geronimo, left, of Toledo buys his lottery tickets from Adam Saw, manager of Ray's Party Store in East Toledo. Mr. Geronimo doubled his $5 ticket buy.the blade/amy E. Voigt
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One of the Valero Stop & Shop sites in West Toledo has been a hopping place this week.

In a single day, 1,700 lotto tickets were sold out of the store and tucked into the pockets of wide-eyed dreamers hoping for that hefty $540 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot. Like a snowball of money, that amount could rise as more tickets are sold for Friday's drawing. And Omar Khasawneh, who manages the Valero at 4142 Monroe St., expects Friday's sales to beat the 1,700 from Wednesday.

"People are playing like crazy," Mr. Khasawneh said just before going behind the counter with his own $5 bill. He punched in an automatic pick for five sets of numbers, put the money in the cash drawer, and stuffed the ticket safely into his wallet.

"If I win, I wouldn't tell anybody. I would just help people, especially kids, because there are so many people in need," he said. "OK, enough dreaming."

That spot is actually one of the lucky places in Toledo for lottery odds.

A fortunate man walked away two years ago with a $1 million lotto ticket from the West Toledo convenience store.

"He was a regular and we never see him any more since he won," Mr. Khasawneh said.

Ohio and Michigan are two of the 42 states plus Washington and the U.S. Virgin Islands where Mega Millions is played. Players pay $1 for a ticket and must pick five numbers from 1 to 56 plus a Mega number from 1 to 46 to win the jackpot. The odds of winning are 1 in about 176 million, according to the Mega Millions Web site. The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $390 million in March, 2007, when the prize was split between two tickets sold in Georgia and New Jersey.

Omar Khasawneh, manager of the Valero Stop & Shop on Monroe Street, buys his own Mega Millions lottery ticket, adding to the thousands he's already sold at his store. Omar Khasawneh, manager of the Valero Stop & Shop on Monroe Street, buys his own Mega Millions lottery ticket, adding to the thousands he's already sold at his store.
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There were no winners in Tuesday's regular drawing, so the total jackpot increased for Friday's whopper of a prize. The lump-sum payment is estimated to be $389.8 million, according to the lottery, but winners could take payments annually for 26 years.

Across town in East Toledo, lottery buyers were flowing into Ray's Party Store on Main Street. Tony Geronimo, a 59-year-old hospital housekeeping worker, said he has had one heart attack and expects a second if he hits the jackpot.

"I buy tickets every day, usually $5, but today I am doubling it," he said. "If I was younger and I won, I would keep working, but I think I would quit now if I won."

Adam Saw, the store manager, expected an uptick in lotto sales too.

"I would never stop working," Mr. Saw said in the event he picks the right numbers. "I would give some to charity and take care of my family."

Rick Fournier, manager at the 7-Eleven at 2201 N. Reynolds Rd., said every other customer on Thursday was buying tickets.

"Oh, yes, definitely people are buying," Mr. Fournier said. "They are buying one to 100 each and some are doing groups. They are just amazed how high it is. Where else could you win half-a-billion dollars?"

Office pools are also popular but can be tricky.

Earlier this month, retired New Jersey construction worker Americo Lopes was ordered by a jury to divide lottery winnings equally among himself and his five co-workers who were due shares of a $38.5 million jackpot.

The construction workers from New Jersey said they had pooled their money for lottery tickets for years and relied on Mr. Lopes to buy the tickets. In November, 2009, he collected their money, but when a Mega Millions ticket he bought hit, he told no one except lottery officials and cashed in the ticket as if it were his alone.

After receiving a check for $17,433,966, Mr. Lopes quit his job, saying he needed foot surgery.

Players pay $1 a ticket and must pick five numbers from 1 to 56 plus a Mega number from 1 to 46 to win the $540 million jackpot Friday. Players pay $1 a ticket and must pick five numbers from 1 to 56 plus a Mega number from 1 to 46 to win the $540 million jackpot Friday.
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He was caught when one of the other five checked a Web site, found Mr. Lopes' name, and discovered that he had hit it big.

One of the best ways recommended to avoid any disputes in an office pool is for each participant to get a copy of the lotto ticket. It's also recommended for groups to establish rules, such as creating a deadline for collecting money, and then put the rules down on paper.

Lotto fever was running high in Bowling Green too.

Kathy Miller, manager of the Circle K on North Main Street in Bowling Green, said lotto tickets were her up-sale for the day.

"I am asking people if they bought a ticket, and they usually buy one after I tell them how high it is," Ms. Miller said. "I think our average is 400, but on Tuesday we sold 1,200."

She has a list of things to take care of if her numbers come in: "Charity, parents, family, and myself."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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