Friday Mega Millions jackpot rewrites the record books as the largest lottery prize the world has ever seen
Jackpot may grow even larger before Friday
By Todd Northrop
There will be a lot of daydreaming going on this week around America.
Dreaming about what it would be like to win nearly a half-billion dollars.
That’s because Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot did not produce a winner, sending the game into uncharted territory. The new jackpot for Friday, March 30, 2012 — $476 million — has officially broken the record for the largest lottery jackpot ever offered worldwide.
And if past ticket sales are any indication of what will happen this weekend, the jackpot may get bigger — much bigger — by the time the drawing kicks off.
Doubtless, there will be a rush of media pundits clamoring to cite the tiny chance each player has of winning. There will probably be a thousand different analogies designed to explain how small the chances are. Maybe someone will compare it to the odds of getting hit by lightning while at the same time being eaten by a shark.
But no matter how hard they try to convince people to resist the urge to play, the pundits are up against a simple fact: there is enough money at stake to make even the most pessimistic person fork over a buck or two at the lottery ticket counter this week.
To get an idea of how many tickets are being sold, the Mega Millions jackpot estimate was raised a staggering $113 million in just one drawing. It normally takes at least 9 consecutive drawings to raise the jackpot by that amount.
Likewise, the lump-sum cash option of Friday’s jackpot is $341.4 million — an increase of $81.6 million from Tuesday. Unimaginable.
Lotteries are typically conservative when estimating jackpots, to ensure that the actual jackpot amount is not less than the estimate. Often the jackpot is much higher than the estimate by the time all ticket sales are accounted for.
In the case of a world-record lottery jackpot, it’s anyone’s guess how much higher it will go.
Friday’s world-record Mega Millions jackpot is the result of an unprecedented 18 consecutive drawings without a top-prize winner. The jackpot started off as a $12 million grand prize on January 27th, and has continued to be drawn without a winner for two months.
Despite the lack of a jackpot winner, some people are pretty happy with the Tuesday drawing. Although nobody won the top prize Tuesday night, 47 lucky players matched the first 5 numbers for a $250,000 prize: 9 from California, 1 from Colorado, 2 from Illinois, 2 from Maryland, 2 from Michigan, 1 from Missouri, 1 from Montana, 2 from New Jersey, 11 from New York, 2 from North Carolina, 2 from Ohio, 2 from Pennsylvania, 1 from South Carolina, 2 from Texas, 1 from Vermont, 1 from Virginia, 3 from Washington, 1 from Washington, D.C., and 1 from West Virginia.
The 9 California winners will each be awarded prizes of $308,573, because California awards all prizes in a pari-mutuel formula, which calculates the prize amount based on the number of tickets sold and the number of winners in each prize category.
Lottery players seeking to check the winning numbers Friday night are urged to use USA Mega (www.usamega.com). State lottery Web sites are normally brought to a standstill during busy periods, while USA Mega normally remains responsive.
USA Mega also offers a feature to show what the after-tax winnings would be in each individual state. That information can be found on the Mega Millions Jackpot Analysis page.
Mega Millions drawing results will be posted Friday immediately after the 11:00 pm Eastern Time (8:00 pm Pacific Time) drawing at USA Mega. The number of winners and new jackpot will be announced after all participating Mega Millions states have reported their data, which normally occurs within a couple of hours after the drawing.
Players are advised not to wait until the last minute to buy their lottery tickets. Sales typically remain open until around 10:45 pm Eastern Time on Friday, although players should check with a lottery retailer in their state for the exact sales cutoff time.
The odds of winning the jackpot are approximately 1 in 176 million. The odds of winning any of the Mega Millions prizes are approximately 1 in 40.
Mega Millions features nine different prize levels, ranging from $2 all the way up to the jackpot. Players can win even if they just match one number — the Mega Ball number.
Mega Millions tickets can be purchased in 42 states, plus Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For a list of states offering the game, see Where To Play Mega Millions at USA Mega.
All Mega Millions states except California also offer the Megaplier option for an extra dollar per ticket purchased. The Megaplier multiplies any non-jackpot prizes won by 2, 3, or 4 times, depending on the Megaplier number drawn that evening.
Players who purchase the Megaplier and win second prize will automatically have their prize increased by 4x to $1 million.
Top 25 Lottery Jackpots
The initial estimate for Friday’s Mega Millions jackpot is $86 million higher than the previous record jackpot. And it probably will be even more by the time the drawing occurs.
To see the record jackpot this Friday in relation to all the previous record-holders, check out the following list.
Mega Millions: $476 million, Mar. 30, 2012 (preliminary estimate, not won yet)
Mega Millions: $390 million, Mar. 6, 2007 – Georgia, New Jersey
Mega Millions: $380 million, Jan. 4, 2011 – Idaho, Washington
Powerball: $365 million, Feb. 18, 2006 – Nebraska
The Big Game: $363 million, May 9, 2000 – Illinois, Michigan
Powerball: $340 million, Oct. 19, 2005 – Oregon
Powerball: $336.4 million, Feb. 11, 2012 – Rhode Island
Mega Millions: $336 million, Aug. 28, 2009 – California, New York
The Big Game: $331 million, Apr. 16, 2002 – Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey
Mega Millions: $330 million, Aug. 31, 2007 – Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia
Mega Millions: $319 million, Mar. 25, 2011 – New York
Mega Millions: $315 million, Nov. 15, 2005 – California
Powerball: $314.9 million, Dec. 26, 2002 – West Virgina
Powerball: $314.3 million, Aug. 25, 2007 – Indiana
Powerball: $295.7 million, Jul. 29, 1998 – Indiana
Powerball: $295 million, Aug. 25, 2001 – Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire
Mega Millions: $294 million, Jul. 2, 2004 – Massachusetts
Powerball: $276.3 million, Mar. 15, 2008 – West Virgina
Mega Millions: $275 million, Feb. 22, 2008 – Georgia
Mega Millions: $270 million, Feb. 28, 2006 – Ohio
Mega Millions: $266 million, May 4, 2010 – California
Mega Millions: $265 million, Apr. 18, 2006 – Ohio
Powerball: $261.6 million, Jun. 2, 2010 – Ohio
Powerball: $261.3 million, Jul. 9, 2003 – Missouri, Pennsylvania
Powerball: $259.9 million, Aug. 19, 2009 – South Carolina
Powerball: $258.5 million, Apr. 21, 2010 – Missouri
Mega Millions: $258 million, Sept. 16, 2005 – New Jersey
Top 20 cash value jackpots
It also goes without saying that Friday’s Mega Millions jackpot also holds the record for the largest cash value ever. Friday’s jackpot is worth over $100 million more in cash than the previous record-holder.
Here’s the top 20 cash values of all time.
Mega Millions: $341.4 million cash, Mar. 30, 2012 ($476 million annuity) – preliminary estimate, not won yet
Mega Millions: $240 million cash, Jan. 4, 2011 ($380 million annuity) – Idaho, Washington
Mega Millions: $233.1 million cash, Mar. 6, 2007 ($390 million annuity) – Georgia, New Jersey
Mega Millions: $214 million cash, Aug. 28, 2009 ($336 million annuity) – California, New York
Powerball: $210 million cash, Feb. 11, 2012 ($336.4 million annuity) – Rhode Island
Mega Millions: $202.9 million cash, Mar. 25, 2011 ($319 million annuity) – New York
Mega Millions: $194.4. million cash, Aug. 31, 2007 ($330 million annuity) – Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia
Mega Millions: $185 million cash, Nov. 15, 2005 ($315 million annuity) – California
The Big Game: $180 million cash, May 9, 2000 ($363 million annuity) – Illinois, Michigan
Powerball: $177.3 million cash, Feb. 18, 2006 ($365 million annuity) – Nebraska
Mega Millions: $168 million cash, July 2, 2004 ($294 million annuity) – Massachusetts
Mega Millions: $167.7 million cash, Feb. 22, 2008 ($275 million annuity) – Georgia
Powerball: $166 million cash, Aug. 25, 2001 ($295 million annuity) – Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire
Mega Millions: $165.2 million cash, May 4, 2010 ($266 million annuity) – California
Powerball: $164.4 million cash, won Oct. 19, 2005 ($340 million annuity) – Oregon
Mega Millions: $164 million cash, Feb. 28, 2006 ($270 million annuity) – Ohio
Powerball: $161.5 million cash, July 29, 1998 ($295.7 million annuity) – Indiana
Mega Millions: $156.1 million cash, Sept. 16, 2005 ($258 million annuity) – New Jersey
Mega Millions: $153.3 million cash, Dec. 27, 2011 ($208 million annuity) – New York
Powerball: $151.7 million cash, Nov. 2, 2011 ($254.2 million annuity) – Connecticut
The typical advice would be, “Don’t buy too many lottery tickets,” but this author has a feeling that sentiment will fall on deaf ears this time.