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Long shot, big payoff: north country residents cast their bets for Mega Millions

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Two weeks before Christmas, the brightest lights at Stewart’s convenience store had nothing to do with the holidays.

“Mega Millions is $400 Million...” the sign above the ticket dispenser scrolled Friday morning as people strolled into and out of the store at 229 N. Massey St., buying coffee, gas and, of course, lottery tickets.

One of them was Kelly A. Dygert, of Watertown.

“I would pay my bills and quit my job, in all honesty,” Ms. Dygert said. “Pay bills, take care of my mom.”

Ms. Dygert said that she plays the lottery occasionally but was motivated to purchase a Mega Millions ticket today by the size of the potential payoff and the implied goodwill of the holiday season.

“It’s the holidays, maybe you’ll get lucky. The Christmas spirit, you know,” she said.

Cashier Leigha C. Moffett said that in the hour and a half since her shift began, more than a dozen people had purchased a chance to win the jackpot, which rose to $550 million by Saturday morning. It’s the second highest amount in the lottery’s history. In March 2012, three Mega Millions players from Illinois, Kansas and Maryland split a $656 million jackpot.

Employees at three Watertown area convenience stores — including Stewart’s on North Massey Stret, FastTrack on Arsenal Street and the Franklin Street Dairy and Market — said they had seen the purchase of the tickets increase as the size of the jackpot has climbed.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the lottery, however.

Priscilla M. Ortega, who works at the Franklin Street Dairy and Market, is fairly critical of the system.

“I’m not a big fan of the lottery. It’s just a waste of money,” she said.

But she noted that several people have come in to purchase Mega Millions tickets. And as the jackpot has increased, store patrons have spent more and more money on the tickets.

Mrs. Ortega said that she wouldn’t buy a ticket, even with the jackpot at such a high level.

“I would go crazy because that’s too much money,” Mrs. Ortega said. “I wasn’t raised with too many materialistic things. That much money? That’s too much.”

Cyril Mouaikel, senior vice president of RBC Wealth Management’s Watertown branch, said that he would advise a lottery winning client who came to him the same way he would advise any other client.

He would put together a thorough financial plan, based on the individual’s needs and the kind of lifestyle he or she desired, he said.

He said he would also give that individual a simple piece of advice: lay low.

After three years, more than the majority of lottery winners end up bankrupt, he said.

“No matter how much money you have, you can find a way to spend it,” Mr. Mouaikel said.

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