TAMPA, Fla. (WFTS) — Mega Millions is now at $1.28 billion, which is the second largest total in Mega Millions history. As it climbs higher, more people are hoping to get a piece of the pie. Kevin Tavares said he hasn't bought a ticket yet, but he plans to get one before the next drawing.
"It's crazy. It's life-changing," said Tavares.
Jackie Jackson said she doesn't regularly play the lottery unless the stakes are this high.
"I'm not a lottery player, but when the jackpot and the money start going up, it's tempting. Right?" she said.
Mega Millions said people have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on tickets in just days. Especially since the last winner was on April 15. There's a one in 303 million chance of hitting the jackpot. Despite the odds, ticket holders said they know exactly how they would spend the money.
"First things first, you know, like debt, pay off the house, get out of college loan debt, all that good stuff. Then travel. That's what I like to do. I'm a foodie. I like to travel to different places and do all types of food everywhere," said Jackson.
"I would, you know, pay off anything I need to pay off, then help my family and maybe buy another house," Tavares said.
The payout is so high, Tavares wouldn't have to stop at just one house. The U.S. Census Bureau said the average price of a home in Florida is $397,000. A winner would be able to buy 3,221 houses.
But ticket sales have continued to climb for months, and the $2 of hope has fallen flat. That begs the question; where is that money going?
"I always think about it, especially because we hear things like when you're going into a recession and all these things right. So, what do they actually do with all this state money? I don't know," said Jackson.
Mega Millions is a pool of money collected by 45 states plus Washington DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mega Millions said $1 from every ticket sold is added to the pot of gold. The other dollar goes back to the state where it was sold.
Charlene Feiga is a District Manager for The Florida Lottery and she said every dollar spent on a lottery ticket is a winner.
"It helps education and that's a win for Florida," said Feiga.
Florida Lottery's Annual Report for the fiscal year 2020-2021 showed 67.5% of lottery money in the state went towards prize earnings. 24.6% went towards the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. 5.6% was returned to the places selling those tickets.1.3% went to vendor fees. The final 1% was used for operating expenses.
The Educational Trust Fund is the primary funding source for Florida's Bright Future's Scholarship. For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, more than $78 million in lottery money went into Hillsborough County schools, and nearly $26 million went into Pinellas.
So, whether your ticket is a winner or not, that $2 will still be pumped back into your community.