CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Mega Millions fever has hit West Virginia.
Lottery retailers across the state on Wednesday were swamped with customers who had their minds set on one thing: a half-billion dollars.
"It's just unbelievable now," said Joe Tummons, owner of Joe's Mart in St. Albans. "Come Friday, it'll just be a madhouse."
Retailers across the state were selling about 50 Mega Millions tickets per minute Wednesday morning. By 4 p.m. that figure had risen to 150 per minute, state Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said.
On Friday, Mega Millions officials will draw the numbers for the now $500 million jackpot - the highest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. That jackpot would go to a winner who chose annual payments over 26 years.
However, most jackpot winners opt for a lump-sum payout, and Tuesday's drawing was already a record-breaker on that score, with the largest lump-sum cash payout ever of $259.8 million.
But no one played the lucky combination for that drawing. The lump-sum payment for Friday's drawing is now a new record, $359 million.
The Multi-State Lottery Association early Wednesday estimated the new jackpot for Friday's drawing if a winner were to choose the 26-year annuity at $476 million.
By noon, they had already upped that figure to $500 million because ticket sales were surging.
"That is rare for it to be revised just four or five hours in to the very next day," Burnside said. "So I wouldn't be surprised that there could be another revision with the way sales are going across the country."
April Thompson, assistant manager of the One Stop #111 on Lee Street in Charleston, said there were big spenders in the long lines at the store.
"I've been here since noon, and we've had sales of $20, $40 and $60," she said shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday. "I actually sold someone $128 worth of Mega Million tickets."
Thompson said she believed the $128 went to a local office pool.
Workplace pools are common when lottery jackpots get high.
Teresa Wolfe, who manages a gas station in Ravenswood, already had sold to a large pool from a local electronics plant for Tuesday's drawing.
"They bought 470 plays with the Megaplier option, which made it $940," Wolfe said.