Mega Millions at its highest jackpot of 2005

By Justin Boron

With 10 Mega Millions tickets and a rabbit's foot in hand, Walter Dawkins said he will be watching the balls drop Friday night when the $144 million drawing happens.

Dawkins, 38, is a fixture at the Jonesboro Marathon convenience store on Jonesboro Road. He said he plays the slot machines most of the day.

But that is just for entertainment.

"Mega Millions, that's where the money is at," Dawkins said. "This is just a pastime."

The 11-state jackpot has rolled over 12 times since the last winner March 1 and is the largest payout since the Georgia Lottery Corporation announced its record high lottery sales for the second quarter at the beginning of the year.

Mega Millions' rising jackpot amount is either good for business or taking its toll on the nerves of gas station attendants, depending on the convenience store clerk or gas station owner who is talking.

Janat Gul, 34, a clerk at the Shell Food Store on Jonesboro Road, said although the high jackpot is usually good for business, it can be annoying at times.

Long lines and lotto players buying as many as 50 numbers can raise the tension level for customers trying to get in and out, he said.

"Sometimes it makes problems for the gas customer or the grocery customer," Gul said.

Billy Powell, 53, the owner of Race n' Go on Jonesboro Road, said he is expecting a lotto rush during the next couple of days.

"Friday will probably be busy because people have money in their pocket," he said.

Sales can really spike, Powell said, especially with company pools that buy $200 worth of Mega Million tickets.

To play, people select different combinations of five numbers from a field of one to 52.

With new the software on the lottery machines, clerks can run as many as 30 ticket requests at a time.

The game's rules also make ticket buyers choose between the lump sum option and an annuity package that spreads the payment over 26 years.

Given that a winner can change his option 60 days after the claim date, most people just pick the cash option, Powell said.

The game isn't just for dreamers either.

With the jackpot odds at about one to 135 million, Frank Charles said he doesn't really think he is going to win and doesn't believe in luck either.

"You try something that exists and see what happens," he said.