Mega Millions jackpot throws region into lotto-buying craze

Amid a bustling Sully’s Mobile station in New London Monday evening, Chris Bachman described his Mega Milllions lottery ticket purchase simply as “$2 and a dream.”

“Spend just $2, and you might just win $1.6 billion,” said Bachman, who works for Electric Boat and lives in New London. “Just think of that. Nothing could beat that.”

Bachman was just one of thousands turning out throughout southeastern Connecticut Monday for their chance to win what’s being deemed the biggest lottery jackpot in world history — a $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot — according to the Mega Millions Group.

The jackpot hit the record-breaking benchmark Saturday after Friday’s unclaimed $868 million Mega Millions drawing, surpassing the previous $656 million jackpot record made in 2012.

Aside from that Mega Millions record, however, the Powerball jackpot also hit its own record-breaking high Sunday. Now at $620 million, it is the third largest Powerball jackpot in game history and the sixth largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history. The Powerball drawing will take place Wednesday, while the Mega Millions drawing is set for 11 p.m. Tuesday.

But with such record-breaking jackpots on the line, convenience store workers across the region Monday say they’ve been feeling the heat.

“It’s been nonstop. It just hasn’t slowed at all,” said Douglas Berns, a clerk at Cumberland Farms in Groton. “We are selling quadruple the tickets than what we normally do.”

“All three registers have to be going at all times,” he said, while also explaining that the store, in the wake of the now weeklong lotto craze, assigned three additional workers to cover shifts. “Almost everyone that comes up to the register is getting (a lottery ticket), so we have just needed that extra staff.”

His co-worker Lori Latham agreed, saying that the rush to buy Mega Millions tickets has been “overwhelming.”

“I know I sold over 7,000 during my afternoon shift last Friday,” she said. “A new girl was here, too, during the rush, and she just wanted to cry. We’ve had consistent lines weaving throughout the store for tickets. It’s been crazy.”

According to the Connecticut Lottery on Monday, over 3,000 Mega Millions wagers (or individual number combinations) were selling every minute across Connecticut Friday afternoon — a number they said continued to skyrocket as the 11 p.m. deadline for the drawing approached. Similar sales are expected in the lead up to Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing.

“It has been really crazy,” said Ari Gonzalez, a clerk working at Sully’s Mobile in New London. “Someone came in and spent $580 today. Another spent $250 on tickets. We have people just spending hundreds of dollars on these tickets.”

Corey Levesque, a store clerk at Trakas Sunoco Mini Mart in East Lyme, also described the last few days as “total madness.”

“I worked Friday. I started work at noon, and I didn’t leave the counter for the next six hours,” he said. “I was just printing tickets. Hundreds and hundreds of tickets.”

“You will see a line at least 10 deep,” he said. “It will be 10 deep for a good half hour, even as we are ringing through two to three customers per minute.”

And as the deadline to purchase a lottery ticket draws ever near, Levesque said he imagines the craze will worsen throughout Tuesday. The deadline to buy tickets is 10:45 p.m. Tuesday — a prime time, Levesque said, for people to shoot for the stars.

The chances of winning the jackpot are 1 in 302.6 million, Connecticut Lottery officials said.

“People love to wait until the last minute to buy tickets,” he said. “And the day of the drawing will easily be the busiest.”

Inspired by the hype, Carolyn Youngblood Laban of Niantic tried her chance at the winning numbers while visiting the East Lyme Sunoco mart Monday afternoon. She bought three Mega Millions tickets and three Powerball tickets — an unusual occurrence, she said, for the self-described artist and writer.

“I normally don’t buy tickets. But the fact that it’s a world record definitely adds to it,” she said, while reviewing a list of numbers she pre-meditated before arriving to the store.

“I looked up winning numbers over the last seven months. I’m playing as strategically I can,” she said, laughing.

As for Norman Harrison of New London, leaving the numbers to a “quick pick” chance worked just as well for him. He said he had already bought two tickets over the weekend and decided on a whim, while stopping in at Sully’s Mobile, to buy another.

“It’s a $2 chance to $1.6 billion. It’s worth a shot.” he said.

m.biekert@theday.com

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