By David Beasley
ATLANTA, March 30 (Reuters) - Buzz is building around the largest lottery jackpot in world history - at least $640 million - ahead of the Mega Millions drawing Friday night in Atlanta.
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.
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,” he said.
In most participating states, tickets will be on sale Friday until 10:45 p.m. EDT (0245 GMT on Saturday), lottery officials said. The drawing will be held in Atlanta at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT on Saturday).
Odds of winning 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 or the full jackpot in 26 annual installment payments.
If there are multiple winning tickets, the winnings will be split equally among the lucky players.
“There is a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement,” DeFrancisco said on Friday.
The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in 2007, and 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 is paid out to ticket holders in the form of winnings, 35 percent to state governments and 15 percent to retailer commissions and lottery operating expenses.
If there is no winner Friday night, lottery officials are considering moving the next drawing to Times Square in New York City as the anticipation and the jackpot build, DeFrancisco said.
“It’s the world stage,” she said. (Editing By Colleen Jenkins and Philip Barbara)