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$640 million question: Who are the lucky three to share record Mega Millions jackpot?

NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.

Updated 4:03 p.m. ET -- Who are the lucky three? That was a common question on the minds of all the rest of us Mega Millions losers on Saturday after lottery officials announced that three lottery tickets sold in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland hit the world record-breaking $640 million jackpot.

The morning after the drawing, most Americans were left with dashed fantasies of what they would have done with more than half a billion dollars.  In New York City, Sean Flaherty hoped to trade in some of his 12-hour days working as a video game tester to spend more time with his wife and daughter.

"I knew that when I bought the ticket, that I wouldn't win," Flaherty said Saturday. "But I did it anyhow. Because, I don't know, it would be like Christmas."


Each winning ticket was expected to be worth more than $213 million before taxes. The winners, for now, remain unidentified and no one has publicly come forward yet to claim the prize.Illinois' winning ticket was sold in the small town of Red Bud, near St. Louis. Mike Lang, spokesman for the Illinois Lottery, said the winner used a quick pick to select the numbers.

Dennis Metzger, the manager at the Motomart in Red Bud that sold the winning ticket, said she has no idea who the lucky person is.

"Everyone is wanting to know who it is," said Metzger. "All day yesterday I was selling tickets and I was hoping someone from Red Bud would win. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this. I'm just tickled pink."

Paramedic Dan Parrott walked away from the store with only $5 in winnings after checking his $40 worth of tickets, not enough for that new house, new car and the new ambulances he'd decided would help him spend the jackpot.

"I'd love to have all that money, but with all of that money comes responsibility," he said outside the store. "But it'd still be awesome."

NBC's Luke Russert reports from outside the Maryland store where a winning ticket to Friday's Mega Millions jackpot was sold.

In Maryland, the winning ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven store in Milford Mill, near Baltimore. The harried manager could only repeatedly say "No interviews" to the reporters pressing for details.

Maryland does not require lottery winners to be publicly identified; the Mega Millions winner can claim the prize anonymously.

The winning Maryland ticket was a single quick-pick ticket, in which numbers are automatically selected, and was sold at about 7:15 p.m. on Friday. The owners of the 7-Eleven, Ethiopian immigrants Abera and Mimi Tessem, will get a $100,000 seller's bonus, said Carole Everett, spokeswoman for the Maryland Lottery.

Nyeri Murphy, holding two scratch-off tickets, said she normally plays Powerball but drove to neighboring Harford County to buy $70 worth of Mega Millions tickets this week. "I should have bought them here," she said.

The Kansas ticket was sold in the northeastern part of the state. No other information would be released by the Kansas Lottery until the winner comes forward, spokeswoman Cara S. Sloan-Ramos said. Kansas law also allows lottery winners to remain anonymous.

Personal finance expert Suze Orman weighs in on the Mega Millions craze.

 

The winning numbers in Friday night's drawing were 02-04-23-38-46, and the Mega Ball 23. Winners could receive either a one-time payment of their share or take it in 26 annual installment payments.

What is the first thing you'd do with the Mega Millions lottery winnings?

Even though just three tickets matched all the winning numbers, the jackpot made a millionaire of at least three other winners and gave a smaller windfall to more than 100 others. Three ticket-holders won $1 million each, and 158 won $250,000 for matching the first five numbers drawn, said Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association in Urbandale, Iowa.

The estimated jackpot dwarfs the previous $390 million record, which was split in 2007 by two winners who bought tickets in Georgia and New Jersey.

Americans spent nearly $1.5 billion for a chance to hit the jackpot, which amounts to a $462 million lump sum and around $347 million after federal tax withholding. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $171 million less if your state also withholds taxes.

No matter who wins the jackpot, one certain winner is the Internal Revenue Service. The tax-collecting agency subjects lottery winnings of more than $5,000 to a 25-percent federal withholding tax.

From coast to coast, people stood in line at retail stores Friday for one last chance at striking it rich.

Maribeth Ptak, 31, of Milwaukee, said she only buys Mega Millions tickets when the jackpot is really big and she bought one Friday at a Milwaukee grocery store. She said she'd use the money to pay off bills, including school loans, and then she'd donate a good portion to charity.

"I know the odds are really not in my favor, but why not," she said.

Sawnya Castro, 31, of Dallas, bought $50 worth of tickets at a 7-Eleven. She figured she'd use the money to create a rescue society for Great Danes, fix up her grandmother's house, and perhaps even buy a bigger one for herself.

"Not too big -- I don't want that. Too much house to keep with," she said.

Willie Richards, who works for the U.S. Marshals Service at a federal courthouse in Atlanta, figured if there ever was a time to confront astronomical odds, it was when $640 million was at stake. He bought five tickets.

"When it gets as big as it is now, you'd be nuts not to play," he said. "You have to take a chance on Lady Luck."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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