All across the North Fork, dreams of Mega Millions

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | By midday today, the Mega Millions total, as displayed at Hallmark Card and Gifts in Riverhead, was up to $636 million and rising. The next drawing is 11 p.m. tonight.

By midday today, the signs posted all around the Mattituck 7-11 promoting the Mega Millions were already out of date. As Greg Cocheo, the store owner, scanned to see the latest update, he crumbled a piece of paper that listed the grand prize at more than $500 million.

It was already up to $636 million and rising closer to a record total.

Mr. Cocheo predicted it would climb to more than $700 million by the end of the day, when the next drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m.

“Everybody wants that dollar,” Mr. Cocheo said as he put through $5 worth of tickets for his wife.

All across the North Fork today, clerks have been transformed into salesmen, urging customers to take a chance at the unlikely life-altering jackpot.

A little snow hardly dampened people’s pursuit of the mind-numbing pot of money.

At 7-11, though, the crowds haven’t been much greater than normal, Mr. Cocheo said.

“Regular customers coming in,” he said, to purchase tickets.

The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 259 million, more daunting odds after the game was expanded recently to picking between numbers 1 and 75 when it used to be capped at 56. The odds used to be 1 in 176 million.

If there’s no winner tonight, the jackpot could reach $1 billion.

At Hallmark Card and Gifts in Riverhead, people were packed inside playing Lotto games. Mega Millions was the main attraction.

“Unbelievable,” said Bobby Patel, who’s worked at the store for about a year.

Mr. Patel was busing selling the buy $10, get two tickets free deal.

“Big seller today,” Mr. Patel said.

At the Mobil gas station on Route 58, store clerk Shafiq Muhammad said business has been solid for the past few days. The snowy conditions hasn’t been a problem.

“They will come,” he said.

Josh Brower, who works at P.C. Richards in Riverhead, bought a Mega Millions ticket at Mobil this afternoon. Mr. Brower said he’s a regular lotto player, usually buying tickets on Tuesday and Thursdays.

He said he’s won in the past, $100 here and there.

It’s not so much the dream of riches that drives him, he said.

“It’s just an energy exchange,” he said. “Free yourself of baggage.”

As Mr. Brower left the store, another customer approached the counter.

“Buy a lotto ticket today!” Mr. Muhammad said to the man. “Stop buying beer.”

The man gave it a thought, but given the odds, he went with the beer.

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