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Players use computer for chance at record Mega Millions jackpot

Mega MillionsMega Millions: Players use computer for chance at record Mega Millions jackpot

Some people use birthdays or anniversaries to pick lottery numbers, but truck driver Tim Lombardy plays a number he saw on a State Highway Patrol car 10 years ago.

He hopes that someday it will make him rich, like Friday night, when numbers are drawn in the record $290 million Mega Millions jackpot.

Most players taking a shot at lottery jackpots truly trust Lady Luck.  According to Ohio Lottery Commission data, the majority let the computer pick their numbers for jackpots.

Computers and humans are picking and playing Mega Millions numbers at a rapid rate this week.

Sales for the multi-state lottery Thursday afternoon were $3,575 a minute or $214,000 an hour in Ohio alone, said lottery commission spokeswoman Mardele Cohen.

The Ohio Lottery expects sales of $12 million for Friday's drawing, she said. In comparison, sales for an $85 million jackpot in February were $2.2 million.

For many lottery players, convenience is the reason they let the computer pick their numbers.

"I don't have the time," said Melvin Walker, a security guard at a downtown Columbus pharmacy who plunked down $1 Thursday.

"One ticket, that's all it takes," he said.

James Johnson, a 63-year-old retiree from Dayton, who plays Mega Millions regularly, said he's won some money with the automatic option. He said he might as well leave it to chance.

"I don't think you can figure it out anyway," he said.

It's the same story at all five Columbus locations of gift shop Nielsen's Stores.

"Very few of them mess around to pick out their own numbers," said manager Dawn Marshall, noting that more people pick their own numbers for the Ohio Lottery's Super Lotto game.

Marshall uses the automatic option.

"If my higher power wants me to have the money, he'll put the numbers on the machine or the ticket," she said.

But clerk Ida Boyer sticks to her strategy of playing the same numbers based on family birthdays.

"They're my kids and my grandkids _ and they're going to bring me money," she said.

Lombardy, the 47-year-old Cleveland truck driver, spots other numbers during his travels _ addresses, serial numbers on trucks _ and plays them.

He uses some other strategies to win it big. During his travels around the state, he stops at the lottery retailers that are the most "lucky," like the Smith & Snow Shell gas station in Brook Park.

It has a reputation for selling winning tickets for Super Lotto, Buckeye 5 and the Kicker but has yet to have a Mega Millions winner.

The Shell station is the top lottery outlet in the state with nearly $4 million sales last fiscal year _ about twice what the second-place retailer sold.

Lombardy said he spends too much on the lottery and has never won anything other than small prizes but is determined to keep playing.

"You gotta be in the game to have a chance," he said.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

The previous Mega Millions record was $239 million in February.


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