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What would you do with $389 million?

By Camille Doty
March 29, 2012 at 6 p.m.
Updated March 29, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.

Mary Carter, cashier at Ramsey's Restaurant, is all smiles as she thinks about the chance to win Friday's Mega Millions jackpot. A winner would receive the biggest payout in the lottery's history.

You're more likely to get struck by lightning before you win the Mega Millions.

The National Lightning Safety Institute reported the odds of being struck by a lightning bolt is about one in 280,000. There's a one in 176 million chance to hit the jackpot.

The odds aren't stopping those lining up for a chance to win about half a billion dollars.

Victoria resident Raleigh Prince said spending $1 is not a sacrifice, and everyday living presents its own risk.

"You take a gamble every time you get behind the wheel," he said. The 61-year-old Victoria native plays the numbers whenever he's in the mood. The prize amount doesn't matter.

However, Prince and millions of lottery players are hoping to hear their numbers called in the Friday night Mega Millions drawing. It will be the biggest lottery award in the game's history at an estimated $540 million, according to the company's website.

Winners may choose the cash option, getting $389 million in one lump sum, or the annuity option and receive annual payments over a 26-year period.

Michael Longnecker, a statistics professor with Texas A&M University, doesn't play because the chances are slim to none.

"I might as well throw my dollar in the air and toss it to the wind," he said.

The College Station-based professor of 35 years said the chances of winning with multiple purchases are infinitesimal. Although Longnecker doesn't participate himself in the lottery, he doesn't advise others totally against playing.

"For some people, one dollar is worth the adrenaline rush," he said.

Cashier Analisa Escalona said there's been a flood of customers at Cimarron Junction. She said one individual bought 120 tickets. And a car dealership spent $100 in a previous drawing only to win six George Washingtons.

Escalona, 22, a Victoria resident and mother of two, has seen both regulars and newcomers. Before words are exchanged, Escalona's intuition kicks in.

"When people come up with empty hands, we already know they're here to buy a ticket," she said.

Chance buyers Mary Carter and Ramsey's restaurant staff have pooled their funds together for a chance to be multimillionaires. If given the opportunity to win, Carter would pay off her debt and then splurge a little.

"I'd buy an RV and travel across the country," she said.

Even if the cashier doesn't win, it's nice to have some hope, she said.

Prince said it feels good to be optimistic about winning. The retired environmentalist said he would take the lump sum to assist the community.

The Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist deacon would donate a bus to his church and set up a college fund for his four grandchildren. He would also use the money to re-open the Carver Center to give young people a place to play.

Prince, who is a Christian, doesn't see the harm in buying a ticket now and then, especially if the winnings are used for a good purpose.

"I see in the commandments not to steal, kill or commit adultery. I don't see anything in the Bible against gambling," he said.

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