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Mega Millions jackpot hits $1.6 billion after no winning ticket was sold for Friday drawing

Mega Millions jackpot hits $1.6 billion after no winning ticket was sold for Friday drawing
The Mega Millions jackpot was initially $970 million, but quickly swelled to $1 billion on Friday as players raced to stores around the state to snag a ticket. (Angela Weiss / AFP/Getty Images)

There’s something lucky about that bluebird.

As the Mega Millions jackpot swelled to $1 billion Friday, lottery-winning hopefuls traveled from near and far to test their luck and rub their tickets on the songbird figurine inside Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne.

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In Los Angeles folklore, the bluebird that sits in the front window of the shop has been responsible for some sizable prizes. The liquor store has sold four tickets worth at least $1 million since 2013, making it the luckiest retailer historically in Los Angeles County, according to lottery officials.

By 8 a.m. Friday, more than 50 people formed a line that snaked around the store and through the parking lot. Over the course of an hour, the line never shrank — as soon as one person purchased a ticket and left, another filled the gap in the line.

Terry Dunevant, 59, of Redondo Beach has been playing the lottery every day with his wife for the last 25 years, but he hasn’t had much luck yet. His hottest ticket netted him about $80.

Still, he waited more than 30 minutes to try his hand at the largest Mega Millions prize in history.

“I’m going to rub that bird’s head,” he said with a chuckle. However, it might not be that easy.

The winning numbers for the $1 billion jackpot were announced late Friday: 15, 23, 53, 65, 70 and Mega Ball 7.

There were no jackpot winners, the Associated Press reported early Saturday. One ticket sold in Morgan Hill, Calif., matched five of six numbers. The jackpot rose to $1.6 billion ahead of the Tuesday drawing.

If it seems like lottery jackpots are getting larger, it’s because they are: Lottery officials changed the odds in recent years to lessen the chance of winning a jackpot, which in turn increased the opportunity for top prizes to reach stratospheric levels. The chance of winning the Mega Millions jackpot is about 1 in 303 million, so not overwhelmingly in any player’s favor.

But Dunevant has an answer for that.

“You can’t win if you don’t play.”

Nearly all lottery winners take the lump-sum cash option, which reached about $565 million Friday morning. After federal taxes are paid, winners will end up with less for their mansion and yacht funds. The annuity option guarantees more money, but it’s paid over 30 years.

Several cashiers were humming along at Bluebird Liquor on Friday, running people’s hand-picked numbers through a computer and handing them tickets in return. The breakneck speed barely made a dent in the winding line of customers.

On Thursday, the California Lottery sold $5.7 million in Mega Millions tickets during the first half of the day. The height of sales came during the lunch hour, when people were buying 200 tickets per second. Sales on Friday were poised to surpass that. The initial prize for Friday night’s drawing was $970 million, but as more people purchased tickets, that number quickly ballooned to $1 billion.

Some players sat at tables set up inside the store to bubble in their (hopefully) lucky numbers. During a break from work, Edgard Gonzalez, 40, a San Fernando Valley resident, stood in the parking lot marking his favored numbers, including his wife’s birthday, his son’s ages and the years they were born. He struck a deal with two of his co-workers that if one person wins, they all split the prize. He bought tickets earlier in the week but came up empty-handed.

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“I hope this time we have better luck,” he said. “Maybe we won’t go to work tomorrow if we win.”

Most people don’t expect to take home the top prize and instead think the ticket is a small price to dream and be part of a wishful conversation with co-workers, family and strangers they meet in line.

As Jane L. Risen, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago, put it: When the jackpot grows so large, she said, “it creates this sense of community. It creates this sense of camaraderie. I also think that it creates a potential sense of regret to not be the one playing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

2:35 a.m.: Updated with news that no winning ticket had been sold and the jackpot had climbed to $1.6 billion.

8:50 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from lottery officials.

11:30 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with staff reporting.

This article was originally published at 9:45 a.m.

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