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Mega Millions fever sweeping Auburn over $500 million jackpot

Stores report brisk sales Tuesday and expect crush of ticket buyers by Friday night
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - With half-a-billion up for grabs in Mega Millions cash, Auburn has caught a new round of lottery fever. And the excitement isn’t reserved for the people who are spending $1 or more for a ticket and a dream of instant riches. Store owners also are riding the dream, with the realization that a premium for the outlet that sells the winning ticket is $1 million. For business owners like Auburn’s Ben Dhaliwal of Auburn Arco AM/PM at the Foresthill exit, that translates into a payday that would be comparable to a lottery win. “I’d pay off my debts, I’d pay of the loan that I owe on the gas station,” Dhaliwal said. In the gas sales business for 15 years, Dhaliwal said he has seen big lottery ticket sales days before – as much as $14,000 in a single day as the fever takes hold – and has observed over the past few days that Mega Millions interest is growing. With the lottery prize in the giant Mega Millions up to almost $500 million on draw day Tuesday, millions of people were disappointed that the numbers drawn – 19, 44, 34, 9, 51 and a Mega number of 24 – had no matches. Since no one matched all six numbers in Tuesday night’s draw, Friday’s jackpot will be $500 million, California Lottery officials announced Wednesday. Mega Millions sales for Friday’s drawing will end at 7:45 p.m. – 15 minutes before the new six numbers are drawn. Bobbi Wetherell, of Auburn’s A-1 Food Store at Highway 49 and Nevada Street, said there was a heavy demand for tickets as Tuesday’s draw approached and then purchases dropped off afterward. “In fact, most of the business near the end was just lottery tickets,” she said. Wetherell said she expects that pattern to repeat itself on Friday, with strong sales leading up to the draw that could make someone in Auburn – possibly herself – a very rich resident. Wetherell said she always buys just one ticket and holds onto her own personal dream of what she would do with her winnings. “I hate to say it, but I would move out of California,” Wetherell said. “Probably to Michigan to be close to family.” With two teen children, Wetherell said lottery winnings would also mean a big boost to their college fund. Wetherell and Dhaliwal said that, whoever wins, they would hope that some of the jackpot would go to helping others. “Winners should have a willingness to give some away,” Wetherell said. “I’d like to help the children in foster homes.” Dhaliwal said that he’ll also be in the game for the jackpot, joining with others at the gas station in the pool purchase of 100 tickets. “I hope those who hit the lottery jackpot will help others,” Dhaliwal said. “It’s the right thing to do for the amount of money you have, to be generous with it.” The Associated Press is reporting that the largest previous jackpot was $390 million, won by two players in Georgia and New Jersey in March 2007. The twice-weekly Mega Millions drawing has rolled 18 times with no jackpot winner since Jan. 24. After each win, the Mega Millions lottery starts out again with a $12 million jackpot. While no one won the draw on Tuesday, nine California players from across the state matched five of six numbers. Those winning tickets are worth $308,573. The closest winner in that group to Auburn was a ticket sold at the Arco AM/PM on Watt Avenue in Sacramento. If the right numbers are drawn Friday, the winner has the option of cashing out with $359.4 million. The retailer who sells the jackpot-winning ticket will receive the maximum bonus of $1 million.