People across the country are buying tickets for tonight's Mega Millions jackpot, which has ballooned to more than $540 million. NBC's Stephanie Gosk reports.
The Mega Millions lottery hit $540 million on Thursday, and people endured long lines for a chance at winning the hefty jackpot – an amount that could rise as more tickets are sold for Friday’s drawing.
“I have never seen so many people inside one store,” Jessie Rae Vaglivielo, a clerk at Hallelujah Junction, a one-stop gas and convenience store in Honey Lake, Calif., near the Nevada border, told msnbc.com on Thursday. It was her fifth day on the job and she didn’t have time to talk -- she was selling tickets to dozens of people who had lined up.
Vaglivielo laughed when asked if she was going to buy a ticket. "No, I don't play," she said, adding "but there are a lot of people here who do, and I gotta go."
At a 7-Eleven in the Bronx, Leisa Aspes said she sold at least $1,000 in tickets during the morning rush hour on Thursday. She described conversations at the store as lively, bursting with dreams of winning.
“That’s all people have been talking about all morning,” she told msnbc.com. “People are talking about what they would do if they won. I made sure to buy my tickets.”
Nobody matched all six numbers in Tuesday's regular draw, and the total jackpot has been growing since. With a $540 million total, the lump sum payment is estimated at $389.8 million, according to lottery officials. Winners can also take payments annually for 26 years.
Mega Millions is is played in 42 states, plus Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Players pay $1 for a ticket and must pick five numbers from 1 to 56 plus a Mega number from 1 to 46 to win the jackpot. The odds of winning are 1 in about 176 million, according to the official Mega Millions website.
The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won was $390 million in March 2007, when the prize was split between two tickets sold in Georgia and New Jersey.
This story includes reporting by msnbc.com's Sevil Omer.
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