Jacques Maxey started his day feeling lucky so he, his wife and two of his four children piled into their car for a trip to The Lotto Store in Primm, with hopes of winning a jackpot that would allow them to buy a house and a new car, with more than enough left over to start a business.
With the lure of a possible — though improbable — $1 billion-plus Mega Millions jackpot payout, Maxey made his first trip ever to the Nevada-California border spot to buy lottery tickets.
“We woke up with a good feeling today and just thought we would try it out,” he said. “I have as good of a chance as anyone.”
With the Mega Millions jackpot at its second-highest level in two decades, Maxey was one of hundreds of Nevadans who flocked to The Lotto Store, off Interstate 15 just over the California state line, on Thursday.
By mid-day, the jackpot for Friday’s Mega Millions drawing was $1.1 billion. It’s just the third time the jackpot has crossed the billion dollar mark, with the cash payout option at $648.2 million. This prize crossed into the 10-figure range this week since the last 29 drawings have yielded no jackpot winners, according to Mega Millions.
Many of those trying their luck know the odds are stacked against them and don’t expect to win, but most have big plans if they do land the big prize.
‘A gazillion to 1’
Hundreds formed long lines around The Lotto Store for their chance to buy tickets. Many came in groups, bringing chairs to sit in, umbrellas to block the sun and fans to help beat the desert heat.
Albert Edwards Jr., who made the 44-mile drive from Las Vegas to The Lotto Store, said he thinks his odds of winning are “a gazillion to 1.” He’s not far off-base. Mega Millions estimates the odds of winning the stratospheric jackpot is 1 to 303 million.
But the long odds didn’t deter Edwards, who was wearing a “WELCOME TO IMPOSSIBLE” Golden Knights T-shirt, from waiting an hour in line to buy tickets.
“The lottery is always a good opportunity, and Las Vegas is always a good place for a long shot to pay off,” Edwards said.
Hoping and dreaming
A woman in line ahead of Edwards was more optimistic about her chances.
Las Vegas resident Deborah Martin called herself a Golden Girl — with a yellow T-shirt featuring characters from the 1980s-90s “Golden Girls” sitcom. She said she knows one of her six tickets will be the one with the six matching numbers to be drawn on Friday night.
Martin offered a bit of advice for the hundreds of people lining up behind her.
“Don’t give up. You can always try again and buy more tickets,” she said.
Martin and Edwards said that if they win, they have no flashy plans to spend the massive payout.
Martin, who works part time for Golden Entertainment, said she would split the winnings among her family, traveling and donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Edwards, who works in the IT industry, said he would invest the winnings to pay off his house and into “people that would be around” after he dies — including his five children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
They weren’t the only ones thinking of family first.
Logan Teeter, an EMT based in the Las Vegas area, said he would use the winnings to build generational wealth and noted he’d take the smaller cash-out option of just under $650 million.
“I’d take the lump sum and put it all in investments or savings and get a money manager,” Teeter said.
Investing the winnings was also top of mind for Kenneth Jones and Michael Slimmen, who made the trip together to get tickets. Both said they would use potential winnings to pay off debt and then buy residential properties to then rent at an affordable rate to people who need housing.
Although most people in line appeared happy to be there, at least one said he was not thrilled that Nevada is one of five states that prohibits participation in lotteries.
“It stinks that Nevada makes us drive all the way to California for lottery tickets since gas costs so much,” said Ricardo Pasadas, who has made the drive to Primm three times over the last 20 years for a shot at winning the lottery.
The Nevada regulation in a state known as the world’s gambling mecca is Section 24 of the state constitution, which bans lotteries in Nevada. With the closest lottery store 40-plus miles away, many people were not only buying tickets for themselves but also for family and friends.
Levi Wilson, who came prepared to handle the long line in the summer heat with an umbrella and lawn chair, said he showed up to buy a ticket for a friend who had to work. Since he was there, Wilson said he decided he might as well get some for himself, although he isn’t too focused on the jackpot.
“I don’t spend too much, so I would need to think what I would use the money on,” Wilson said.
Jossie Fajardo, who accompanied her mother, Eva, to buy tickets at The Lotto Store, offered a succinct answer to her mom’s motivation — she “wants to win the money.”
She and her mother will have to wait along with millions of other hopeful ticket buyers until the numbers are drawn on Friday at 8 p.m. Pacific time.
But if for the 30th time in a row, no one holds the winning ticket, one bet is a sure thing: The lines at the small store at the Nevada-California border will return and will likely be longer than ever.