In the hopes of striking it rich, people across the country are scooping up Mega Millions tickets. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.
Venus Wilson has been fantasizing about winning the Mega Millions lottery. The first thing she would do? "Faint!" the security officer said at her post outside of JPMorganChase in Midtown Manhattan on Friday. "Then, when I get up, go get my check, and go shopping."
Wilson, 31, has bought seven lottery tickets. Other than passing out, she's got big plans if one ends up being a winner: She'd invest in real estate, but first, she would make sure her friends and family were taken care of.
"I would donate to St. Jude's for cancer research, for breast cancer, do stuff like that. Because come on, why not? Don't be stingy. God didn't bless you with it for no reason. Help people out. And I would pay off my parents' doctor bills, and I would help family and friends," she said. "Then I would go crazy [shopping]. I swear -- I would go crazy."
She also has plans to keep the cash flowing: Wilson wants to open soul food restaurants and laundromats, and get an accountant to invest her leftover winnings.
"You have to keep it coming. A lot of people, they win all that money, and then they're broke," she said. "Some people don't believe in the lotto. But look at the gold pot. It's like the leprechaun with the rainbow. That pot of gold is beautiful right now," Wilson said.
'A dollar and a dream'
Therese Schoenwandt, 29, has been swept up by the lottery fever. The nursing student got engaged two weeks ago and sat in Barnes & Noble on Friday, flipping through "Wedding Planning For Dummies."
Elizabeth Chuck / msnbc.com
Therese Schoenwandt, 29, a nursing student who recently got engaged, purchased a lottery ticket for the first time this week.
"I've never done a lotto ticket before. I usually don't believe in that stuff," she said. "It's all over the papers, and it's all over the news. Yesterday when I saw people lining up outside stores for it I said, 'You know what, I'm going to buy a ticket.' Peer pressure!"
Her first act if she wins: Pay off her mother's mortgage in Brooklyn. The she will plan her wedding, and put the rest in the bank.
Ivan Martinez, 50, who was handing out fliers in Manhattan's diamond district, had high hopes of helping out his family back home in Puerto Rico with the one ticket he purchased earlier in the day. "It's a dollar and a dream," he said.
Richard Gallo, a 47-year-old customer service representative in the watch industry, said if he won, the first thing he would do is jump in the car and drive. "Before I even turned the ticket in, I would take a trip. Wherever I ended up, I ended up. Basically just to step away from everything, think about it and come back. You get caught in that whirlwind."
Others weren't as confident about the dream's possibility. "It's all fixed," said a man who refused to give his name but was filling out his numbers for a ticket. "Do you know anyone who's won? It's all fixed, if you ask me." Then he continued filling out his ticket.
Personal finance expert Suze Orman weighs in on the Mega Millions craze.
On our Facebook page, many readers weighed in: "Sign the back of the ticket. Then go on a vacation to clear my mind while deciding who a good financial adviser would be to go to," wrote Christopher Ringen.
Others said they would pay off debt for family and friends or their churches, or donate to animal shelters. For some, though, it was just about making life a little more comfortable: "Never fly coach again," wrote Rebecca Hayes.
But not everybody has bought into the hype. "It doesn't really attract me," said Louis Carrasquillo, 50, a sales rep at Montecristo Cigar Shop on 5th Avenue in New York.
"Have I thought about it? Probably. I passed by the booth and I thought it would be great, but I'm just a working person. I'm not really a gambler."
If he did win that kind of cash, he would give money to his church for a new school and cafeteria, he said.
As the Mega Millions Jackpot lottery winnings continue to grow, the NOW panelists discuss how the lucky winner is not the only beneficiary of the lucrative system.
But Carrasquillo said he was turned off by some lottery tips he heard from a newscaster: "If you're going to get divorced, get divorced before you win. What's that about? Change your phone number, 'cause you're going to hear from family members you haven't heard from. You gotta be kidding me."
Mega Millions is played in 42 states plus Washington, D.C. Friday's drawing happens at 11 p.m. ET. 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.
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