When the winning numbers are not drawn in the Mega Millions lottery game, it means a bigger contribution to state coffers.
With tickets sales today expected to approach $1 million an hour for tonight's record $222 million jackpot, lottery officials are smiling.
Sales build as jackpots grow, and the Mega Millions game has not had a winner in 12 drawings.
Anne Plohr Rayhill, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Lottery, said about 35 cents of every dollar spent in Illinois on lottery games goes into the Illinois Common School Fund, which disperses aid to school districts. Sales from the last two drawings will generate $4.6 million for the fund.
"Certainly our sales are doing very well," Plohr Rayhill said. "Each drawing period we sell even more."
Plohr Rayhill said the lottery department planned to put $540 million in the school fund each year, and large jackpots like this one will help reach or surpass that goal.
The Mega Millions game is played in Illinois, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Plohr Rayhill said Illinois' own lottery games do not suffer when the Mega Millions jackpot grows. "If anything, loyal instant players might say, 'Oh, that looks like fun,' and buy a Mega Millions ticket in addition to an instant game," Plohr Rayhill said.
The $222 million prize is the largest since the multi-state game changed from it name from the Big Game in May 2002 to Mega Millions. The record jackpot for a lottery game is $363 million, from the Big Game. Two families, from Illinois and Michigan, split that pot.
The odds of winning the Mega Millions are one in 135 million, but those numbers didn't deter Donna Miller, 35, of Fairview Heights. She was drawn by the other number, the $222 million.
"I only play when it gets big, and by big I mean over $100 million," Miller said.
Miller, who works for the Air Force at Scott Air Force Base, went to shop Thursday at Ben's Outlet store in Belleville with her 11-month-old son and bought food and $15 worth of Mega Millions tickets.
In addition to the typical lottery dreams of vacations and a new home for her mother, Miller said, she would like to open up a center in the Metro East area similar to the Magic House in Kirkwood.
Also buying at Ben's was Sandra Hallinan, a 33-year-old laundry worker from Swansea.
She said she played both the Mega Millions game and the Illinois Lottery "as often as I can," she said, although she hasn't won more than a free ticket so far.