Mega Millions jackpot reaches $1B as drawing nears

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Mega Millions jackpot has soared to an estimated $1 billion, as the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. lottery history gets even bigger.

Lottery officials increased the grand prize just hours ahead of the Friday night drawing. The prize climbed from $970 million.

Robyn Sinclair, a Columbia resident, said people are heading to gas stations and other locations to buy tickets because of the size of the prize. 

"They are hopeful, just very hopeful," Sinclair said.

Shannon Huffman said she made a special trip to the gas station today to buy a lottery ticket. She said if she wins, she would use the money to help her family. 

"I would take care of my family and some of the my friends, do some charity," Huffman said.

Sinclair thinks Mega Millions should be about more than just the money. 

"I don't care how small your family is, if you have a good heart, you're going to share," Sinclair said. 

Although the jackpot keeps increasing, the odds of winning remain stuck at a miserable one in 302.5 million.

Sinclair said she won't buy a lottery ticket to potentially win part of the prize. 

"That's just silly. There's no 'get rich quick' anything," Sinclair said. 

The prize has grown so large because no one has hit the jackpot since July 24, when a group in California won $543 million.

The $1 billion prize refers to the annuity option. Most winners opt for cash, which for Friday night's drawing would be $565 million.

Officials say that if there isn't a winner, the prize for Tuesday night's drawing would be $1.6 billion, tying the largest U.S. lottery prize.

According to the Missouri Lottery, sales for Mega Millions totaled more than $632,000 before 11 a.m. Friday morning. It says the number will continue to rise throughout the day and prior to the drawing.