Now that the Mega Millions lottery jackpot has topped $1 billion — only the fourth time a lottery game has reached such heights — plenty of people who rarely play the game are considering risking $2 or joining an office pool in hopes of an immense payoff.
Buying a ticket is easy, but it’s also easy to be confused about the odds, how the prizes are set and how the winnings will eventually be paid out.
DO YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING RISE OR FALL AS THE JACKPOT GROWS?
Your chances of winning the jackpot always remain one in 302.5 million, regardless of whether the big prize is $20 million or the current $1.02 billion. You do increase your odds of winning if you buy more tickets but before laying down $100 at the Quicky Mart for 50 tries, keep in mind that in the big scheme of things, 50 chances out of 302.5 million isn’t much better than one. Also realize that the $1.02 billion amount is for the annuity option, paid annually over 29 years. The cash option would pay $602.5 million.
IS THIS A GOOD TIME TO PLAY OTHER LOTTERY GAMES?
Just like the Mega Millions odds don’t change, the odds of winning a prize in Powerball, the other big nationwide game, and other smaller state games are fixed, too. Given that, you have no better odds now than at any other time. However, with fewer people buying tickets in those games, there is less of a chance that multiple players could win the jackpot, forcing you to share your winnings.
WHAT STATES HAVE THE MOST MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT WINNERS?
Time for a road trip to a lottery nirvana? Probably not.
Since 2016, players have won 40 Mega Millions jackpots, with the fortuitous few scattered through 22 states. And not surprisingly, there have been more winners in states with greater populations and thus more players.
California takes the prize for the most Mega Millions jackpot winners during that span, with six lucky players. That’s followed by five winners in New York, four in New Jersey and three in Illinois.
Notably, population heavyweights Texas and Florida have had few Mega Millions winners since 2016. Texas had two and Florida had one.
WHERE DO THE DRAWINGS TAKE PLACE?
The drawings happen at 11 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday and Friday and are held at the WSB-TV studios in Atlanta.
DO RETAILERS GET ANYTHING OUT OF THIS?
Rules vary by state but retailers usually get a reward for selling a ticket that wins a jackpot. In Ohio, for example, retailers get $1,000 for every million dollars of a jackpot, with a cap of $100,000.
WHAT IF I CHOOSE AN ANNUITY BUT DIE BEFORE RECEIVING ALL THE PAYMENTS?
Most jackpot winners opt for cash but receiving your winnings through an annuity, with 30 payments over 29 years, can help people slightly reduce their tax burden. If winners die before receiving all their winnings, the future payments would go to their estate.
WHO RUNS MEGA MILLIONS AND HOW DO THEY DECIDE JACKPOT AMOUNTS?
The lottery game is overseen by 45 state lotteries as well as game officials in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A group comprising representatives from the lotteries meets twice a week to determine the estimated jackpots.