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. Andrew

    Guys don't waste your money buying tickets, I'm going for the winning ticket later today.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. palintwit

    Then he held up the Etch-A-Sketch and Sarah Palin said, 'Hey, give me back my iPad.'” –Bill Maher

    March 28, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • JuneCleaversBeaver

      What you mean 'classy Bill Maher' didn't pull out the "C" word this time?????

      March 28, 2012 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  3. iceload9

    A professor called the lottery a tax on the stupid. But you can't win without a ticket.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • pointless1

      He's right though.. you would be making more return by simply putting 2000 in an IRA and never depositing another dime in the account than you probably ever make playing the lotto. Buy the dream.. face reality...

      March 28, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Noocrat

      Gambling is considered a regressive tax because it mostly impacts the poor and uneducated, which in turn creates more problems for the respective government's that then must take care of them when they can't afford food or rent.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • conrad

      I have my PhD from MIT and bought 5 tickets. Also, I'm not poor.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Farty McCloud

    Obviously I did not win last night. But I figure I will win Saturday. With this jackpot, not only will I be able to have my spastic colon looked it, I will have it cured!

    March 28, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

      Mmmmmmm...... spastic colon

      March 28, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Oral Rabidsome

      Then you will die of heart failure and Dick Cheney will get your colon.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. moneybags

    When I win I'll pitch in for a quarter share of the Dodgers

    March 28, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. devin

    $476 million prize, odds of winning are 1 in 176 million. just buy every ticket combination, and if no one else wins then you are guaranteed to make money (even after taxes).

    March 28, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I once thought the same...unless there are multiple winning tickets. Then you're screwed.

      March 28, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • nagrom

      If I had 176 million I wouldn't need to play the lottery. I would just veg around and soak in the sun on some blue lagoon haven somewhere.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • BLOWBA

      WOW – just think how long it would take to run all those tickets through the machine......

      March 28, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      If your odds of winning are 1 in 176 million, then you'd need 176 million $1 tickets to cover every possible combination. Not going to happen.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • conrad

      But how much would it cost to generate all those numbers and mark them on the tickets? And could you get it done by Friday? You'd need a team of people.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jeff Wilson

    After taxes...probably the total payout will be 250 million.

    Hmmmmm...I think I can live with that.

    March 28, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. Luke Atmydik

    I want to play...nice jackpot. I'm a 1%'er...

    March 28, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jed Newton

    You would get more us out of your money by literally burning it and having a hot dog roast.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  10. Eddie O.

    Hmmmm.... win the MegaMillions drawing... I'll donate some to the Kim Kardashian Anal Leakage Fund!....Baaaah!

    March 28, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bruce

    Oh well, who will win such a jackpot, only those that play might have a chance. With an odd at 178,000.000 million to one it could be me.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. krehator

    Why have 476M jackpot instead of 476 $1M jackpots? Spread it around. God knows people need it. $1M can go a long way. 476M will just get taxed to death.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      The lottery game creators have studied giving out multiple $1mill, prizes. Problem is not many people play the lottery when it's only $1mill... People begin to play when the jackpot is large.

      March 28, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      A million dollars just doesn't go a far as it used to go...

      March 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sidewinder

    I guess if I win that would make me a "job creator"? The first job I'll create will be to make Newt my biach. I'll rent him out for parties. Plus he would make a good anchor to tether that gasbag Rush to.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dutch

    Good luck to me and 475 of my closest friends

    March 28, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. Matt

    Go buy one ticket and no more. 1 in 176million is statistically no different than 20 or 100.

    Anyone can waste $2.

    March 28, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
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