US gets lottery fever as jackpots rise to $2.2 billion

NEW YORK, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Gregory Baron, 24, and Ben Nelson, 27, on Monday were eagerly purchasing $2 tickets for the Mega Millions jackpot in hopes of winning the record-setting $1.6 billion prize and becoming among the richest people in the world.

"I would incorporate myself as a business and become my own company," Baron said inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan, adding that he would also pay off his student loans and parents' mortgage and donate to charities if he wins.

"I would want to set myself up, but still be working so I don't erode into nothingness," Baron said.

Lottery players face odds of 1 in 303 million of winning the Mega Millions drawing Tuesday night. In comparison, the odds of getting killed by a shark are 1 in 3.7 million in a lifetime, according to the International Shark Attack File.

The Mega Millions website briefly crashed on Monday ahead of the drawing due to a surge in visitors, said a spokeswoman for the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, which administers the website.

26 PHOTOS
Mega Millions frenzy during October 2018 drawings
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Mega Millions frenzy during October 2018 drawings
Customers buy Mega Millions tickets hours before the draw of the USD 1 billion jackpot, at the Bluebird Liquor store in Torrance, California on October 19, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
An Illinois Lottery billboard advertisement, featuring the Mega Millions, is seen on the northwest side along the I-90 Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, IL on October 20, 2018. The jackpot is now $1.6 billion, a record breaking Mega Millions jackpot. Currently the jackpot is tied with the largest jackpot in U.S. history. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Dan Higgins stands outside of a 7-Eleven in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston where he bought a Mega Millions ticket on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. If he wins, Higgins says he’d take care of his children’s education and buy a probably buy a big house on the ocean. (AP Photo/Alanna Durkin Richer)
BOCA RATON - OCTOBER 19: Atmosphere as the Mega Millions lottery hits One Billion on October 19, 2018 in Boca Raton, Florida/ Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX
Annette Gray, left, from Valley Stream, N.Y., buys lottery tickets Friday Oct. 19, 2018, in New York. The estimated jackpot for Friday's Mega Millions drawing has soared to $1 billion. Gray said it's about "a dollar and a dream, but I spent ten today". (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Russell Robinson buys 50 Mega Millions lottery tickets at the Kwik Stop food store at 46th Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood, Fla., Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
People line up at the Kwik Stop food store at 46th Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, in Hollywood, Fla., to buy Mega Millions lottery tickets, Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Mega Millions lottery tickets are printed out of a lottery machine at a convenience store Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The estimated jackpot for Friday's drawing would be the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history with a jackpot estimated to exceed $900 million. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Mega Millions bet cards are shown at the Corner Market, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Lyndhurst, Ohio. The estimated jackpot for Friday's drawing would be the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history with a jackpot estimated to exceed $900 million. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Mega Millions lottery tickets are printed out of a lottery machine at a convenience store Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Chicago. The estimated jackpot for Friday's drawing would be the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history with a jackpot estimated to exceed $900 million. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 19: Mega Millions Lottery ticket is seen as the prize reached $1 billion before the drawing in New York, United States on October 19, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 19: A woman buys Mega Millions lottery ticket as the Mega Millions Lottery prize reached $1 billion before the drawing in New York, United States on October 19, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Illinois Lottery billboard advertisement, featuring the Mega Millions, is seen on the northwest side along the I-90 Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, IL on October 20, 2018. The jackpot is now $1.6 billion, a record breaking Mega Millions jackpot. Currently the jackpot is tied with the largest jackpot in U.S. history. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 18: A sign displays that the Mega Millions Lottery prize is estimated $1 billion before the drawing in New York, United States on October 18, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - OCTOBER 19: People wait in the line to buy Mega Millions lottery ticket as the Mega Millions Lottery prize reached $1 billion before the drawing in New York, United States on October 19, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A woman shows her Mega Millions tickets hours before the draw of the USD 1 billion jackpot, at the Bluebird Liquor store in Torrance, California on October 19, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Customers buy Mega Millions tickets hours before the draw of the USD 1 billion jackpot, at the Bluebird Liquor store in Torrance, California on October 19, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A man reaches for his Mega Millions tickets hours before the draw of the USD 1 billion jackpot, at the Bluebird Liquor store in Torrance, California on October 19, 2018. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
People line up in the hallway of a midtown New York City office building to buy Mega Millions tickets on October 19, 2018, as the jackpot hit record USD 1 billion. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Carlos Davila holds up his Mega Millions lottery tickets at a Brooklyn store on October 19, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The jackpot for tonight's drawing has now climbed to $1 billion, making it the largest jackpot in the game's history and the first to top the $1 billion mark. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
People line up in the hallway of a midtown New York City office building to buy Mega Millions tickets on October 19, 2018, as the jackpot hit record USD 1 billion. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
REFILE - CORRECTING TYPO Mega Millions entry tickets are seen at a newsstand after the jackpot for Tuesday's drawing topped $650 million in New York City, New York, U.S., October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
An impromptu "One Billion dollars" sign is on display as customers line up to buy Mega Millions tickets at a newsstand in midtown Manhattan in New York, U.S., October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Sugar
A customer purchases a ticket for the Mega Millions lottery drawing in New York City, U.S., October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A lottery ticket for the current record breaking $667 million U.S. Mega Millions jackpot is shown in this illustration photograph in Encinitas, California, U.S. October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A ticket is seen ahead of the Mega Millions lottery draw which reached a jackpot of $415 Million in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 1, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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Mega Millions set a world record for lottery jackpots after there were no winning numbers for the $1 billion prize on Friday. The previous record was a $1.586 billion jackpot for a Powerball drawing in 2016.

About 280 million tickets were sold for Friday's drawing, with about 60 percent of all winning number combinations covered, said Seth Elkin, a spokesman for the agency.

Tickets sold for Tuesday's drawing are expected to cover 75 percent of all possible number combinations, he said.

If a player hits all six numbers to win the jackpot, they can opt for an immediate cash payment of $904 million or receive the $1.6 billion prize over 29 years.

Nelson, a post-production manager based in Manhattan, said if he wins the jackpot he would travel and buy a farm in northern California where he would raise Bernese Mountain Dogs.

"You'd get all the boring stuff out of the way early, then I'd make a feature film," he added.

'GIVE IT A SHOT'

In Chicago, a crowded newsstand inside the city's Ogilvie Transportation Center was unable to display the record-setting prize amount because $999 million was the highest number its electronic sign could show.

"It's only two dollars. I’m spending my coffee money on this today," said Rita Gomez, a 51-year-old self-described occasional lotto player who was purchasing tickets for herself, her sister and two friends at a convenience store in Chicago.

Wednesday's Powerball lottery prize stands at $620 million, making it the fifth largest jackpot in U.S. history, after no one got all six numbers in Saturday's drawing. The lump sum cash payout is estimated at $354.3 million.

18 PHOTOS
Lottery winners throughout history
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Lottery winners throughout history
Great Grandmother Elizabeth Jones, aged 71, from Warrington in Cheshire who won #8,355,262 (US$13,368,400) in last Saturday night's national lottery poses for photographers with a crystal ball May 5. Jones' granddaughter was told of a windfall this May by a spritualist she visited in October 1997. DC/ME
Shirley and Frank Capaci show off a check for $104,300,000 during a photo opportunity in Pell Lake, May 27. The Capacis won the largest lottery prize in U.S. history in the "Powerball" drawing of May 20, 1998. Looking on is state of Wisconsin Lottery Director Don Walsh (R). AF/HB/SB
Sean and Alex Taylor from Whitwick, Leicestershire celerbrate after scooping the jackpot of ?9,512,277 on the National Lottery in Birmingham May 6. The pasties delivery man who has three children screamed with disbelief when he realised the size of his win. BRITAIN
Lucky lottery winner Bruno Calonne (C)holds a board December 3, with the amount of 69.378.690 francs ($ 13.8 million) he won in yesterday's draw, in this northern France city. He is France's biggest winner in the national lottery since it was founded in 1976. L and R are the unidentified loto shop clercks
Powerball Lottery winner Andrew "Jack" Whittaker (R) holds a copy of his check at lottery headquarters in Charleston, West Virginia, on December 26, 2002, after winning the $314.9 million jackpot. Looking on at left are members of Whittaker's family (L to R) daughter Ginger, grandaughter Brandi Bragg, and wife Jewell. REUTERS/John Sommers II JPSII/TRA/JD
Joanne (L) and Jorge (R) Lopes of Englishtown, New Jersey, receive their check for almost $59 million in Trenton, New Jersey April 30, 2002. Jorge Lopes bought the quick-pick Big Game ticket as one of five he purchased at a foodmart. The couple took home the largest ever single ticket prize in New Jersey. REUTERS/Chip East CME/HB
Erika Greene of Lawrenceville, Georgia holding the display check given to her at the Georgia Lottery headquarters as she and her mother Vicki Chambless (R) laugh during a press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2002. Greene who is one of three winners of the Big Game, bought her winning ticket at Rans Texaco in Dacula, Georgia and will receive $58,938,743 before taxes. REUTERS/Tami Chappell TLC/HK
Filipino-born hospital worker Pedro Sotomil (R), representing the PFK Family Partnership, smiles as he is presented a ceremonial check by Lori Montana (L), director of the Illinois Lottery, at a press conference in Chicago May 17, 2002, where he claimed his portion of the $331 million Big Game jackpot. REUTERS/Sue Ogrocki SUE/JP/JD
Sheryel Hanuman (L) of Minneapolis receives a check from George Andersen, director of the Minnesota State Lottery, at the Lottery's office in Roseville, Minnesota, August 27, 2001 during the press conference announcing her as one of four winners of the $295 million Powerball lottery jackpot from the August 25 drawing. Hanuman plans to take the cash option of $41.4 million ($27 million after tax withholding). Hanuman, married and the mother of three boys, bought five one dollar tickets at a Cub Fods grocery store while shopping for a friend's wedding card. EM
EuroMillions lottery winner Angela Kelly smiles as she holds a copy of her winning cheque at a news conference at Airth Castle, Scotland August 15, 2007. Kelly, Britain's biggest lottery winner, was stunned into silence when she realised she'd scooped 35 million pounds ($71 million) with a single �1.50 ($3) ticket. REUTERS/David Moir (BRITAIN)
Powerball Lottery winners, from left to right, Chasity Rutjens, Alain Maboussou, and Dung Tran, celebrate after each was awarded a check for their share of the record $365 million jackpot in Lincoln, Nebraska February 22, 2006. The group of eight winners selected the cash option, awarding each person US$22,162,500 before tax withholdings. REUTERS/Chris VanKant
Winners of the record $340 million lottery Powerball look at the winning check in Salem, Oregon, November 8, 2005. The winners are: (L-R standing) Frances Chaney, Steve West, Carolyn West and Robert Chaney (seated). The winning ticket will be split between members of the Chaney and West families of Medford, Oregon. The $340 million jackpot drawing on October 19, 2005 was the largest Powerball jackpot ever won and the second largest worldwide jackpot ever. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola
Paul White (L), 45, from Ham Lake, Minnesota, stands with his partner Kim VanReese (C) and co-worker Nancy Bowen (R) as he holds a check for his $149.4 million portion of a $448.4 million Powerball jackpot prize at a news conference at Minnesota State Lottery headquarters in Roseville, August 8, 2013. White, the first to come forward to claim his money, was one of three winners of the jackpot. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
Powerball lottery winners known as "The Ocean's 16 group", comprising of workers from an Ocean County garage, pose for a picture after a news conference in Tom's river, New Jersey, August 13, 2013. Sixteen county maintenance department workers from New Jersey submitted the second winning ticket on Monday in the $448 million Powerball lottery, officials said. The group from Ocean County, on the Jersey shore, was presented with a check for $86,054,355, their share of the jackpot after taxes, lottery officials said. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
John Mandley (L) of the Maryland State Lottery is pictured with the ?Three Amigos? who claimed their part of record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot in this picture released to Reuters on April 10, 2012. The Maryland Lottery?s Mega Millions winners are three friends, all of whom work in Maryland?s public education system, who will share the $218.6 million portion of the record-breaking $656 million jackpot from March 30. The winners, who referred to themselves as ?The Three Amigos,? chose the cash option of $158 million. After taxes, the winners will share $105 million, taking home just under $35 million each. REUTERS/Maryland State Lottery/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
Mega Millions Jackpot winner Merle Butler (R) and his wife Patricia pose with their check along with Red Bud Mayor Tim Lowry (L) and Illinois Lottery superintendent Michael Jones during a press conference at Red Bud City Hall in Red Bud, Illinois, April 18, 2012. The retired couple described as "good people" by residents of this picturesque Illinois town claimed their one-third share of a record $656 million Mega Millions lottery prize on Wednesday, saying they would invest most of the money. The winning couple, Merle and Patricia Butler, married for 41 years, have lived all their lives in Red Bud, a tidy farming and manufacturing community of 3,700 people in southern Illinois, named for the trees that tower all over town. REUTERS/Illinois Lottery/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Tom Delacenserie (L), Secretary of the Florida Lottery poses with Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt of Melbourne Beach with an oversized check after opting to claim their share in a lump sum payment in a winning ticket, worth $528.8 million, from the Jan. 13 drawing at the state's lottery headquarters in Tallahassee February 17, 2016. The Florida couple claimed their share of last month's record $1.6 billion U.S. Powerball lottery jackpot on Wednesday, coming forward with the second of the three winning tickets. REUTERS/Don Juan Moore
Powerball jackpot co-winners Lisa and John Robinson of Munford, Tennessee, their daughter Tiffany Robinson (L) and Tennessee Lottery President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove attend a news conference at the headquarters of the Tennessee Lottery in Nashville, Tennessee January 15, 2016. The couple revealed on the TODAY television show that they held a winning ticket to claim their share of the $1.6 billion Powerball prize. REUTERS/Harrison McClary TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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If there is more than one winner, the jackpot would be divided proportionately, as happened in 2012 with a Mega Millions jackpot of $656 million, a lottery official said.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. Several states allow online ticket purchases, but they prohibit out-of-state and foreign purchases.

Both lottery jackpots have been increased recently by rule changes that have reduced the odds of winning. The odds of winning Mega Millions were lowered a year ago from 1 in 259 million to generate larger prizes.

"I'll never win, but you gotta give it a shot," Hank Kattan, 75, said in Manhattan. "I'd like to change my way of life."

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago Editing by Paul Simao)

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