Mega Millions jackpot hits record $500 million
While the annuity jackpot prize for Friday night's Mega Millions drawing is $500 million, the cash option payout is $359 million.
March 28th, 2012
04:53 PM ET

Mega Millions jackpot hits record $500 million

Editor's note: The day after this story was published, the jackpot estimate rose to $540 million.

The jackpot in Friday's Mega Millions lottery drawing has risen to an estimated $500 million, the largest in the game's history, after Tuesday night's drawing produced no jackpot-winning ticket.

The latest estimate, announced around midday Wednesday, is even larger than lottery officials had announced just hours earlier. The initial estimate for Friday's drawing was $476 million, which also would have been a Mega Millions record.

Tuesday's numbers were 9, 19, 34, 44 and 51, with a Mega Ball of 24. That drawing was for an estimated $363 million jackpot, which would have been the game's third-largest.

Forty-seven tickets earned a pre-tax prize of at least $250,000 each by matching five numbers without matching the Mega Ball. Nine California winners will get $308,573 each because of parimutuel rules in that state.

The game's previous biggest jackpot was $390 million in a March 6, 2007, drawing. That jackpot was split by winners in Georgia and New Jersey.

The growing jackpot has drawn plenty of interest from would-be millionaires. On Monday, lottery officials announced that "stronger than expected sales" prompted them to push up Tuesday's jackpot up from an initial estimate of $356 million to $363 million.

"I see so many different faces every day, and it's not just Tuesday and Friday that they come in. It's every day of the week," Latasha Allen, a manager at a Columbus, Georgia, convenience store, told CNN affiliate WTVM-TV this week about the growing number of lottery players in recent days.

In Virginia, one of the 42 states where Mega Millions is played, lottery officials expect that about 5.8 million tickets will be sold on Friday alone, Virginia Lottery spokesman John Hagerty said. Two Fridays ago, on March 16, the state is believed to have sold about 1.3 million tickets for a jackpot that was, at the time, $200 million.

"Sales are very, very strong in Virginia. It looks like we're seeing a lot more people who don't normally play want to get in the game," Hagerty said Wednesday afternoon.

Friday's $500 million prize is payable as an annuity over 26 years. If a winner prefers, he or she could choose a one-time, lump-sum payment, which in this case would be $359 million. Both figures are before taxes.

This prize has been building since January 24 when a Georgia woman won a $72 million Mega Millions prize. She chose a $52 million lump-sum cash option.

Last year, the game stopped just short of breaking its record. A $380 million jackpot was split by two winners, one in Idaho and another in Washington, on January 4, 2011.

The biggest single-ticket win in the other nationwide lottery, the Powerball, was in February 2006 when a ticket held by eight workers at a Nebraska food plant paid a $365 million jackpot.

Mega Millions is played in 42 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A jackpot-winning ticket must match all five numbers drawn from a pot containing 56 balls and then match the Mega Ball, which is drawn from a pot containing 46 numbers. Odds of winning are almost 176 million to 1. Each ticket costs $1.

Jackpots start at $12 million and rise for subsequent drawings when jackpot-winning tickets aren't sold.
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Filed under: Lotto
soundoff (486 Responses)
  1. TMZ

    I feel sorry for the winner of that jackpot. They essentially have to leave the country. Their picture will be on every newspaper, internet site and TV news program. They won't be safe from relatives, charities or criminals. Sometimes, winning can be worse than being poor.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
    • RA

      That's a valid point.

      March 28, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • dc

      All things considered, I would rather win than not win.

      March 28, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Aeroman

      That's why you use your money to invest in security. There are plenty of famous, well-known rich people out there...

      March 28, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I'll take my chances.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • cptpooppants

      Mmmmm Jackpot.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I'd happily take my chances!!

      March 28, 2012 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      Winning is never worse then being poor and besides the publics memory is about three days long. You win and in two weeks except family and friends no one remembers you. Can you remember the last two power ball winners without googling their names..No you cant.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Uniblob

      I have heard that the best thing to do is not come forward as the winner, but rather, go to an attorney and do everything by proxy. I have also heard that almost no one actually does that. I believe it is possible to remain anonymous.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • soulcatcher

      with that money hire a bodyguard.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • JPS

      @TMZ Give me a break. They wont be safe..... yeah right.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam A.

      You act as if we dont have Billionaires in our society

      March 28, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • CJ

      I would gladly acept being the winner and could deal with the other negative stuff that comes with it.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      You can choose to remain anonymous.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      @TMZ dont know very much about lottery winners do ya?

      March 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kay

    I doubt there will be just one winner. Lots of people will be buying tickets, so there will probably be at least two, maybe three or four.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. Scottish Mama

    Dang, those are not my numbers. I haven't bought a ticket in decades. The things I could accomplish with the millions will never be realized. lol.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Hey, hey Mama.
      I haven't bought one in years, either.
      A girl can dream, tho, lol!

      @Tim: lol

      March 28, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @banasy- I will buy one for saturday also. What the hey, maybe I will win some mad

      March 28, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. Winning

    i'd rather not win ... Are you kidding .. yeah right ..

    March 28, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  5. NT

    IIf you have $176M available, it is actually a good investment to buy every possible combination; tickets are only $1. Of course, this is assume no one else wins...

    March 28, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      If 3 people win, you then lose at least $100 mil, lol

      March 28, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • JPS

      Tickets are two dollars now.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe T.

      Rich people don't play the lottery. It's probably why they are rich in the first place. Good money management.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rooster Cogburn

    Save your money, as I plan on winning...

    March 28, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tim

    @TMZ, if you win, shoot me an email. I'd be glad to take that burden away from you! Wouldn't want you to have to suffer like that. Just doing my part for my fellow citizen. 🙂

    March 28, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. cynosure

    you can't possibly win – everyone knows that it is my turn to win, sheesh

    March 28, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. kessas

    Never played lottery and never believed in lottery. They just distortion of my attention and my mind.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  10. BillnTed

    If you were to win the complete amount you'd better do something for a worthwhile cause. That kind of windfall is a huge blessing. I couldn't imagine the bad Karma you'd receive if you squandered that wealth...

    March 28, 2012 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |

      You'd be Romney.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©


      March 28, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • sameeker

      I'm sure the preachers line up on every winners doorstep.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. T

    Not sure what I'd do if I won. Actually the tougher question is who would I try to live like, Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark? I'm Batman or I am Ironman?

    March 28, 2012 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jeff

    At least in Virginia, you can hire a lawyer to accept the money for you, and that way the winnings will go to you without your name being released to anyone. My wife's aunt won $250k on a MegaMillions ticket about a year ago, and that's how she collected.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. NYC biker

    The reason not to buy every combo of numbers costing you 176 million. The cash payout is 205 million ( the true amount won today), so you would only win 29 million, vand after tax only 18 million. BUT, if 1 other ticket wins you will have lost 76 million! The odds are against you, mostly because the payout % on these lotteries are so low they would be illegal in any casino!

    March 28, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. What?

    Looks like I will buy me a ticket today.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  15. Al

    A one-way ticket to the 1%. Count me in.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
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