Mill Valley has been the epicenter of lottery madness this week, as customers have been streaming into on Miller Ave. all week, hoping that lottery lightning will strike thrice in the form of more than a half-billion dollars. The Mega Millions drawing worth $540 million takes place Friday after draw entry closes at 7:45 p.m.
"Through the roof - it's been unbelievable," says Jolly King owner Pardeep Bali of his store's lottery ticket sales, who estimated that he's sold hundreds of tickets since Tuesday night's Mega Millions drawing. That drawing yielded a host of local winners, including 12 employees of and , as well as a $13,000 win by an employee pool at the Alice 97.3 radio station in San Francisco that included Mill Valley resident and "Sarah and Vinnie" host Sarah Clark.
The 12 Stefano's employees bought that matched five of the six numbers in Tuesday night’s Mega Millions drawing. Each of those winning tickets is worth $308,573. The employees, all of whom were born in Brazil, had pooled together $1,200 to buy 1,200 $1 tickets to increase their odds of winning in the Mega Millions drawing.
To increase their probability of winning even more, they scattered all over Marin to buy the tickets, with Greenbrae resident and brand new father Luciano Aruda stopping at Jolly King Liquors in Mill Valley, where he had to pick up a check as part of his second job as a New York Times delivery man. Aruda bought 250 tickets, Arias said.
Three of the 12 employees - San Rafael resident Luiz Arias, Aruda and Corte Madera resident Giovane Souza – went to the California Lottery’s district office in South San Francisco Wednesday afternoon to claim their prize - $308,573, or approximately $21,000 for each employee after taxes, according to Arias.
The employees kept the tickets at Stefano’s and got together Tuesday evening after the drawing to go through them. They didn’t have to look very hard – the third of the 1,200 tickets they looked at had five matching numbers, Arias said.
“It was amazing,” he said. “This money will be well spent.”
Because no ticket matched all six numbers in Tuesday night's drawing, the jackpot in Friday's drawing has reached approximately $540 million.
The $540 million jackpot is the highest in the history of the game. The previous highest amount ever won was $390 million in March 2007, according to lottery officials.
Mega Millions has drawings each Tuesday and Friday and is played in 41 different states, plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin
Players pick five numbers from 1 to 56 plus a Mega number from 1 to 46. The tickets cost $1 each, and the chance of hitting all five numbers plus the Mega number is one in 175,711,536.