Tonight, some lucky person might win the $355 million Mega Million multi-state lottery jackpot, which is sold in the District, Maryland and Virginia, among other states. And while thousands of people across the region are lining up to buy tickets, there's a reason to root for an area resident even if you don't personally win: A local winner could mean a serious windfall for government treasuries in dire need of help these days.
In the District, a sole winner who accepts the lump cash payment of $224.2 million would pump a full $19 million into the coffers of a city anticipating a fiscal 2012 shortfall of $400 million or more, via an 8.5 percent withholding for income tax. (That's after the feds take 25 percent, or $76.8 million.)
In Maryland, where lawmakers must close a $1.6 billion gap, a sole winner opting for up-front cash would send $20.7 million into the state treasury, via a 9.25 percent withholding.
And in Virginia, where Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) needs to find $191 million in savings, a 4 percent withholding would raise just shy of $9 million.
"We could definitely use it," said Buddy Roogow, executive director of the D.C. Lottery.
Unfortunately the chances aren't great: Mega Millions is sold by 40 other jurisdictions besides the three in the Washington area. And the high interest in the record jackpots means more players are playing more numbers, increasing the chances of a split pot.
But Roogow said that even if a D.C. resident doesn't hit it big, the jackpot has been good for city coffers. "People are buying other things [at lottery agents]; it's good for the retailers," he said.
New year brings hope for a new big winner
Area residents are making their last-minute purchases with hopes of becoming the next Mega Millions winner after the drawing today.
The jackpot, which has been growing since November, now sits comfortably at $330 million.
Although more than 3.1 million tickets won prizes on the Dec. 31 drawing, none took the most sought-after award, according to the Mega Millions website, www.megamillions.com.
There have now been 15 drawings without the big winner.
Mark Arnold, an employee at Discount Tobacco and Beverage in Mentor, said he is just as excited for the chance to win the big bucks.
He purchased his first ticket Monday.
"I'd give my left arm to be able to have enough money to take care of them," Arnold said about his family.
Other patrons had similar plans for the possible winnings, most taking care of family or children, and one man had "no idea."
Rich Jukiewicz plays the lottery twice a week. He won $494 last week from various categories and purchased his Mega Millions ticket Monday.