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Saturday, 6 May, 2000, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Jumbo jackpot swells lottery fever
Georgia lottery outlet
People have been buying lottery cards by the hundreds
People are queuing up in seven US states to buy tickets for the country's biggest ever lottery prize - worth $300m.

Georgia lottery ticket
Any ticket could be the winner

No one hit the $230m jackpot in Friday's draw for the Big Game lottery, and next Tuesday the prize is predicted to beat all previous records.

Until now the biggest pay-out was $295m, won by a group in Ohio in a 1998 multi-state Powerball game.

The odds of getting all six winning numbers in the Big Game lottery are one in more than 76 million.

The jackpot started at $5m eight weeks ago, after the last big winner made a claim.

State line sales

They say money can't buy happiness, but I'm willing to try

Kevin Stoerch of Michigan

The Big Game started in 1996 and operates in seven states - Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia.

Players have been flooding across state lines to buy the $1 lottery tickets, which can only be sold in the participating states.

Ticket sales, which tend to be strongest near state lines where residents of non-lottery states drive to buy tickets, were estimated to have reached $118m in the three days preceding Friday's draw.

New Jersey lottery queue
Enthusiasm for tickets is such that some New Yorkers even went to New Jersey

At the Pilot Travel Center in Georgia, near the Alabama state line, a queue of 40 ticket buyers stretched out of the door and around the building.

"I'm just playing because it's so high," said Lisa Gray of Alpine, Alabama, who drove 60km (40 miles) to queue up with her four-year-old son.

Retailers - who make five cents on every ticket sold - reported customers buying them up by the hundred.

"They say money can't buy happiness, but I'm willing to try," said Kevin Stoerch of Escanaba, Michigan.

In New Jersey, residents from New York City, who normally try to avoid visiting their less fashionable neighbour, were hurrying across the Hudson River to queue for Big Game tickets.


The winner of Friday's jackpot would have had the option of taking their winnings in 26 annual instalments of $8.8m before taxes, or receiving a lump sum of roughly $114m.

Federal and state taxes would have reduced that to roughly $80m.

It was estimated that roughly one-third of the proceeds from the Big Game would be paid back to the various states to fund charity schemes, such as scholarships to send poor students to university.

But gambling addiction experts warned people to guard against enthusiasm turning into compulsion.

An estimated 5% of Americans experience a gambling problem at some time in their lives.

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