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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soundoff (486 Responses)
  1. Auri

    With all this money. I'd make debts of 1 billion,cause i can't live without bills to pay!!

    March 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sonofgalton

    Another drawing, another dollar wasted....

    March 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nuno

    If I win, I will buy a small country in europe and proclaim myself the supreme ruler !
    ahh that people will worship me !
    bringuing me croissants to the bed... sigh

    March 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bill

    Something just don't seem right about gathering up people's money of many states and then shipping all of that money out of their state to one person to live it up. Would be fun to have all that money. I might start to feel guilty, I don't know, maybe not.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GOD

    If I win, you can all go to heaven.

    March 28, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sweeeet

    With that kind of money, I can just pay off politicians so they can help me make more money!

    March 28, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PraiseTheLard

    I hope someone wins this thing soon... with the governments being so broke, they'll need the tax payable on this... (yet another scam... this isn't "income"... should be tax free...)

    March 28, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Saen

    In these tough economic times, wouldn't it be better for everyone to have more winners of less money, i.e. 500 million dollar winners? That would make the odds of winning a million bucks 500 times better. Also, if the odds of winning are 176 million to one, does that mean that someone with $176 million could guarantee a win of $500 million?

    March 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • sparty7

      In theory..if they are the sole winner;)

      March 28, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harley

      They had that game, no one played it.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • swingshot

      If someone bought 176 million randomly numbered tickets, no, they would not be guaranteed to win. If they bought 1 ticket with each possible combination of numbers, then they would.

      March 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      If you bought one ticket every second it would take you over 5 years.. so I doubt anyone is going to take 176 million down to 7-11 and go for it.

      March 28, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      really, $500 billion. what a typo. not just a fat finger either. who proofs what gets put on cnn's home page?

      March 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scrum67

      I would buy a new bu...Because mine is cracked...

      March 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • waffles

      No, on average one our of every 176,000,000 tickets will win the jackpot. Sometimes the prize is $176 million, sometimes it reaches these insane levels over $300 million, and sometimes the prize is claimed below $100 million. That's why this is news, it's so unusual for it to get this high.

      Similarly, there are always winners of $10,000, or $100,000, etc. The appeal of having an absurd grand prize is that it draws in more purchasers, especially spontaneous ones (would you be more willing to go out of your way to buy a ticket for a $100 million grand prize or a $1 million dollar grand prize?) and that you get lots of free publicity/advertising, such as this, from various news sources and word-of-mouth.

      Of course, if you had $176 million to spend on lottery tickets, you'd have a pretty good chance to win but I doubt you'd care about the prize very much at that point. Don't forget, taxes take a massive chunk out of the prize and if you opt for a one-time payment instead of a structured payout over some 25 years, you lose another hefty chunk.

      March 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Donald in CA

    When i hit this big one, goodby wife and relatives.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • bo knows

      Donald you will die alone and in rags

      March 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duppy Killer

      Don't let the wife see this. 😉

      March 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wise

      Your right ... because if your wife is like most women, she would take off with the kids along with all the money.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. RB

    I plan to hit this one, and I'll have women and girls galore...

    March 28, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. krozar

    I'd use it to force everyone in Oakland to install whistle tips.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. pumpkinseeds

    My co-workers and I pool our money and buy tickets. I know I'd make so many people happy with MY winnings. Helping others is half the fun. I already know who I will help and how I will help them. I'll pay off mortgages, buy them new cars, send them on dream vacations, set up college trust funds for their children and I can't wait to just hand out money to strangers I think could really use it. I hope we win!!

    March 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. michael

    II guess replies to don't work properly. My Jimmy Fallon reply was in response to the "Schweaddy Balls" comment by bubba. It would be funny if it were actually original. Schweaddy Balls is the flavor of a Ben & Jerry ice cream.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Diest

    Don't waste your money, because I already have the winning ticket.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Keith Petres

    The link on cnn.com's main page is "What would you do with 500 billion?"

    Should be an "m", not a "b".

    March 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
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