ATLANTA (Reuters) - Buzz is building around the largest lottery jackpot in world history — now up to $640 million — ahead of the Mega Millions drawing taking place in Atlanta late Friday night.
Buyers have lined up this week in 42 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands to purchase $1 tickets for the Mega Millions lottery.
In most participating states, tickets will be on sale Friday until 10:45 p.m. EST, lottery officials said.
The drawing will be held in Atlanta at 11 p.m. EST.
Odds of winning the entire jackpot are 175 million-to-1, said Margaret DeFrancisco, president and chief executive of the Georgia Lottery Corporation.
If a single ticket matches all six winning numbers, the player would receive either a one-time payment of $462 million or the full jackpot in 26 annual installment payments.
If there are multiple winning tickets, the winnings will be split equally among the lucky customers.
“There is a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement,” DeFrancisco said on Friday.
The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in 2007, which was split between two ticket holders in Georgia and New Jersey.
It will be early Saturday morning before lottery officials verify whether there are any winning tickets, according to the Mega Millions website.
About half of the lottery money goes back to ticket holders in the form of winnings, 35 percent to state governments and 15 percent to retailer commissions and lottery operating expenses.
If no one wins Friday night, the jackpot will grow to $975 million. Lottery officials are considering moving the next drawing after Friday to Times Square in New York City as the anticipation and jackpot build, DeFrancisco said.
“It’s the number one media market in the world,” she said. “It’s the world stage.”
Tim Schnabel, a marriage and family therapist in Monroe, Georgia, said he purchased 25 Mega Millions tickets and plans to establish a foundation to help improve parenting skills if he wins.
“When it gets to astronomical sums that we’re looking at now, not only would it change my life, but it will change the lives of everyone around me,” Schnabel said.
Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Paul Thomasch