Record $ 640 million lottery prize reported to have winner

The record $ 640 million lottery prize that sent the United States into a gambling frenzy reportedly had at least one winner early today as local media said the winning ticket had been sold in the state of Maryland.

The winning numbers -- 2, 4, 23, 38, 46 with Mega Ball 23 -- were announced here at 11:00 pm (local time) today. There has been no official announcement from Mega Millions lottery yet.

MSNBC television cited an unnamed Maryland lottery official in reporting the news. The Washington Post, using similar sources, said the winning ticket had been sold in Baltimore County.

However, it was not immediately clear if the Maryland ticket was the only one to win the gigantic jackpot.

Experts warned it could be days or even weeks before somebody showed up to claim the prize as winners usually tend to hash out all the legal issues with their lawyers before taking that step.

The chance to get suddenly very, very rich -- even if it was only a one-in-176-million chance -- had sparked feverish ticket sales at convenience stores and news kiosks across the United States.

There was plenty of fantasising too on the airwaves and in newspapers about life after winning the monstrous jackpot -- a fantasy all the more powerful in a country with a weak jobs market and still spooked about recession.

The tickets made it unequivocally clear: this was nothing less than "the world's largest jackpot."

But it really was a fantasy: the chances of scoring the winning number weren't the same as being killed by lightning -- they were considerably lower.

The jackpot hit a record level because no one had matched the magic five numbers and Mega Ball since January 24 -- a full 18 draws with no winner.

Given the pace of ticket buying, the jackpot climbed inexorably higher, and New York Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman told the New York newspaper Newsday late yesterday that tickets for the mega jackpot were selling at the unprecedented rate of USD 4 million per hour.

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