Mega Millions Tuesday jackpot reaches $636 million

(AP/WJLA) - The Mega Millions jackpot has been boosted to $636 million, a jump from the earlier projection, but still trailing a $656 million prize last year that was the largest in U.S. history.

Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and Mega Millions' lead director says ticket sales are ahead of projections, one of the primary factors pushing the jackpot higher.

She says the jackpot may be increased one more time on Tuesday morning in advance of the evening drawing, and that between 65 and 75 percent of the 259 million possible number combinations will be in play when the numbers are drawn.

Virginia lottery officials are estimating that up to 12,000 tickets per minute are being snapped up. In Arlington, it was hard to pace with the growing jackpot.

The jackpot reached $636 million as people in 43 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and those stopping by this Capitol Hill Liquor store pushed the pot higher as they try to cash in.

Winning dreams included visiting Disneyworld to buying an island at a Landover Exxon that has sold a $1.2 million winning ticket, and has a wall full of smaller prizes. Employees have seen a steady stream of people hoping these machines pop out the big winner.

Meanwhile, the Circle 7 Express in Northeast Washington has been owner Emmanuel Tesfay’s life for 22 years. He considers his customers his extended family, and on Tuesday night, his regulars like Mary Williams are doing more than buying snacks -- they’re dreaming like they never have before.

The Mega Millions lottery stands at a whopping $636 million – the second biggest in U.S. history.

"I can do a lot of things with that -- a whole bunch of things," said D.C. resident Mary Williams.

The odds of winning are 1 in 259 million, and since Mega Millions made the odds steeper in October, no one has been lucky enough to cash in. In fact, if this massive mound of money doesn’t find a home tonight, the next jackpot could reach nearly a billion dollars.

"Good luck to everybody who is playing the Mega Millions. I wish everybody luck. There's enough to go around!" said District resident Sandra Daniels.

The winning numbers for the Dec. 17 Mega Millions lottery will be drawn at about 11 p.m. Tuesday.