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Mega Millions (initially called The Big Game Mega Millions as the successor of The Big Game) is an American multi-jurisdictional lottery game. The first (The Big Game) Mega Millions drawing was in 2002 (see below).
The minimum Mega Millions advertised jackpot is $15 million, paid in 30 graduated yearly installments, increasing 5% per annum (unless the cash option is chosen; see below for differences by state). The jackpot increases when there is no top-prize winner (see below for information on how the game's jackpot is funded).
Reflecting common practice among American lotteries, the jackpot is advertised as a nominal value of annual installments. A cash value option (the usual choice), when chosen by a jackpot winner, pays the approximate present value of the installments. As of October 18, 2013, Mega Millions uses a 5/75 (for the white balls) plus 1/15 (for the "Mega Ball") double matrix to select its winning numbers. Each game costs $1. Of the 45 Mega Millions jurisdictions, all but California offer an option, called Megaplier (such games are $2 each) where non-jackpot prizes are multiplied by 2, 3, 4, or 5. The Megaplier was made available to all Mega Millions jurisdictions in January 2011; it began as an option available only in Texas. Mega Millions is drawn at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday and Friday evenings, including holidays. Mega Millions is administered by a consortium of its 12 original lotteries and the drawings are held at the studios of ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia, supervised by the Georgia Lottery.
The current 5/75 + 1/15 format has yet to produce a jackpot winner.
The largest jackpot in Mega Millions, as well as in American lottery, history was $656,000,000 annuity value (with a cash option of $474,000,000) for the March 30, 2012 drawing, in which there were three jackpot-winning tickets; one each in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland. All three tickets had been claimed by April 18, with each set of winners choosing the cash option of $158,000,000, a one-third share. The largest Mega Millions prize was $319 million (annuity) for the lone winning ticket of the March 25, 2011 drawing.
On October 13, 2009, the Mega Millions consortium and Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) reached an agreement in principle to cross-sell Mega Millions and Powerball in American lottery jurisdictions, with the two groups referred to as the "Mega Power Lottery" by many users. The expansion occurred on January 31, 2010, as 23 Powerball members began selling Mega Millions tickets for their first drawing on February 2, 2010; likewise, 10 Mega Millions members began selling Powerball tickets for their first drawing the next day. Montana (joining Mega Millions on March 1, 2010) was the first jurisdiction to add either game after the cross-sell expansion. Nebraska (March 20, 2010), Oregon (March 28, 2010), Arizona (April 18, 2010), Maine (May 9, 2010), Colorado and South Dakota (the latter two on May 16, 2010) also have joined Mega Millions since the expansion.
As of October 18, 2013, there are 45 lotteries offering Mega Millions and Powerball. Florida joined Mega Millions in May 2013 (Puerto Rico, whose lottery began in the 1930s, does not participate in either game).
Before the agreement, the only stores which sold Mega Millions and Powerball tickets were retailers whose business was on a border between jurisdictions which sold competing games.
Powerball replaced Lotto*America in April 1992; Mega Millions replaced The Big Game in May 2002 (see below for the evolution of the name Mega Millions).
|Arizona||April 18, 2010|
|Arkansas||October 31, 2009||January 31, 2010|
|California||April 8, 2013||June 22, 2005|
|Connecticut||1995||January 31, 2010|
|Colorado||April 2001||May 16, 2010|
|Delaware||1992||January 31, 2010|
|District of Columbia||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Florida||January 2009||May 15, 2013|
|Georgia||January 31, 2010||1996|
|Idaho||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Illinois||January 31, 2010||1996|
|Indiana||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Iowa||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Kansas||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Kentucky||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Louisiana||March 1995||November 16, 2011|
|Maine||2004||May 9, 2010|
|Maryland||January 31, 2010||1996|
|Massachusetts||January 31, 2010||1996|
|Michigan||January 31, 2010||1996|
|Minnesota||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Missouri||1992||January 31, 2010|
|Montana||1992||March 1, 2010|
|Nebraska||1994||March 20, 2010|
|New Hampshire||November 8, 1995||January 31, 2010|
|New Jersey||January 31, 2010||1999|
|New Mexico||1996||January 31, 2010|
|New York||January 31, 2010||2002|
|North Carolina||May 30, 2006||January 31, 2010|
|North Dakota||2004||January 31, 2010|
|Ohio||April 16, 2010||2002|
|Oklahoma||2006||January 31, 2010|
|Oregon||1992||March 28, 2010|
|Pennsylvania||2002||January 31, 2010|
|Rhode Island||1992||January 31, 2010|
|South Carolina||2002||January 31, 2010|
|South Dakota||1992||May 16, 2010|
|Tennessee||2004||January 31, 2010|
|Texas||January 31, 2010||2003|
|US Virgin Islands||2002||October 4, 2010|
|Vermont||2003||January 31, 2010|
|Virginia||January 31, 2010||1996|
|Washington||January 31, 2010||2002|
|West Virginia||1992||January 31, 2010|
Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah do not currently operate or allow a state lottery by either law or state constitutional mandate. Although Puerto Rico has a lottery, it does not participate in either Mega Millions or Powerball; as of October 2013, it does not have any plans to join either game at the present time. On March 14, 2013, Wyoming became the 44th state to establish a lottery, although it does not sell tickets as of October 2013.
Tickets began to be sold in Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia on August 31, 1996, for the new game, then known as The Big Game. It was the brainchild of the then-lottery directors Rebecca Paul (of the Georgia Lottery) and Penelope W. Kyle (of the Virginia Lottery). The Big Game initially was drawn once weekly, held only on Friday nights.
The Georgia Lottery was a member of Multi-State Lottery Association at the time and wanted to sell both games for the remainder of 1996; however, within a few days, Georgia was forcibly removed from the MUSL, returning with the 2010 cross-selling expansion.
Beginning in January 1999, jackpot winners were given the option to receive their prize in cash. In May 1999, New Jersey joined The Big Game, the only jurisdiction to enter as a participant before The Big Game became Mega Millions in 2002.
Ohio and New York joined the corsortium on May 15, 2002, when the game was renamed The Big Game Mega Millions, temporarily retaining the old name and the original "gold ball" logo. The "Big Money Ball" became the "Mega Ball." While the game's name was altered, the yellow ball in the new Mega Millions logo continued to contain "The Big Game" name. The first (The Big Game) Mega Millions drawing was held two days later on May 17. The Mega Millions trademark is owned by the Illinois Lottery. The first three lotteries to join Mega Millions were Washington (in September 2002), Texas (in 2003) and California (in 2005); California was the last addition to Mega Millions before the cross-sell expansion of 2010. Montana joined Mega Millions on March 1, 2010, the first addition to Mega Millions after the cross-sell expansion.
When Texas joined Mega Millions in 2003, it began offering an option, initially available only to Texas Lottery players, known as the Megaplier, which was similar to the then-current version of Powerball's Power Play. The 11 Mega Millions lotteries without Megaplier on the January 31, 2010 cross-selling date gradually added the multiplier option; by January 2011, all Mega Millions lotteries, except for California, offered the Megaplier. The Texas Lottery owns the trademark to Megaplier.
For the November 15, 2005 drawing, a group called "The Lucky 7" held the only jackpot-winning ticket, purchased in Anaheim, California, winning $315 million. They chose the cash option, splitting $175 million before federal withholdings. This remains the largest prize won by a single Mega Millions ticket.
On March 6, 2007, the Mega Millions jackpot reached $390 million, which is the record for the second largest jackpot in U.S. history. The jackpot was shared by two tickets, both matching the numbers of 16-22-29-39-42 and Mega Ball 20. Both winners chose the cash option, with each share $116,557,083 before withholdings.
The New Jersey Lottery, among others, in early 2009 announced it would seek permission to sell Powerball tickets alongside Mega Millions. In October 2009, an agreement between Mega Millions and the MUSL allowed all U.S. lotteries, including New Jersey's, to offer both games. On January 31, 2010, Mega Millions expanded to include 23 Powerball lotteries. As of that date, 35 jurisdictions were participating in Mega Millions. On the same day, 10 existing Mega Millions-participating lotteries began selling Powerball tickets, for a then total of 43 lotteries. Ohio joined Powerball on April 16, 2010, and California joined Powerball on April 8, 2013. On March 1, 2010, Montana became the first Powerball member to add Mega Millions after the cross-sell expansion. Nebraska became the 37th Mega Millions participating member on March 20, 2010, followed by Oregon as the 38th member on March 28, Arizona as the 39th member on April 18, and Maine as 40th Mega Millions participant on May 9, 2010. Colorado and South Dakota added Mega Millions on May 16, 2010, bringing the total to 42 jurisdictions.
The most recent additions to Mega Millions were the U.S. Virgin Islands, in October 2010, and Louisiana, in November 2011. Florida joined Mega Millions on May 15, 2013; the first drawing to include Florida-bought tickets was two days later.
Presumably due to their experience with the Power Play option for Powerball, all 23 lotteries joining Mega Millions on January 31, 2010 immediately offered Megaplier to their players. The Megaplier continues to be drawn by Texas Lottery computers, as California does not offer the multiplier. Montana, offering Powerball before the expansion date, became the 24th lottery to offer the Megaplier, followed by Nebraska (the 25th), Oregon (as the 26th), Arizona (as the 27th) and Maine (as the 28th lottery to offer the Megaplier option). After Colorado and South Dakota joined Mega Millions, this raised the number of lotteries offering the Megaplier to 37.
Mega Millions tickets bought with the Megaplier, beginning September 12, 2010, automatically win $1 million (instead of $250,000) if the five white balls – but excluding the Mega Ball – are matched.
On March 13, 2010, New Jersey became the first Mega Millions participant (just before the cross-sell expansion) to produce a jackpot-winning ticket for Powerball after joining that game. The ticket was worth over $211 million annuity (the cash option was chosen). On May 28, 2010, North Carolina became the first Powerball member (just before the cross-selling expansion) to produce a jackpot-winning Mega Millions ticket after joining Mega Millions, with an annuity jackpot of $12 million.
In January 2012, Mega Millions' rival Powerball was altered; among the changes were a price increase of $1 for each play, as a result, a base game costs $2, or $3 with the Power Play option. There are no plans to change the price of a Mega Millions play, with or without the Megaplier. The price increase for playing Powerball was a major factor in Louisiana deciding to pursue joining Mega Millions, that state's lottery joined Mega Millions on November 16, 2011.
The final 5/56 + 1/46 Mega Millions drawing was held on October 18, 2013; its jackpot of $37,000,000 was not won. The first drawing under the current format, which saw the jackpot estimate "leap" to $55,000,000 due to the change in the annuity structure, occurred on October 22. The minimum jackpot is now $15,000,000 with rollovers of at least $5,000,000. Second prize (5+0) is now $1,000,000 cash. Players now choose 5 of 75 white ball numbers, and 1 "Gold Ball" number out of 15.
The Megaplier option remains; it now includes a 5x multiplier. The Megaplier now applies to all prizes except the jackpot; a 5+0 play with the Megaplier wins $5,000,000 cash.
Former (through October 18, 2013) and current prize tiers, based on a $1 play:
Payouts in California remain pari-mutuel.
The odds of winning the jackpot are decreased to 1 in about 258.9 million. The odds of winning a prize has increased to 1 in 14.71, but this also includes the "push" scenario (where the money won in the prize matches the amount of the wager, as is the case when a winner matches only the mega ball without the megaplier); thus, the odds of turning a profit on any given bet is less than advertised. Match & Odds
The annuity, which was 20 annual payments (no cash option was available) when The Big Game began, changed from 26 equal yearly installments to 30 graduated annual payments (increasing 5% per annum) with the October 19, 2013 format change.
The Mega Millions jackpot (as of November 8, 2013) has yet to be won under the current format.
The largest Mega Millions jackpot, advertised as $640 million at the time of the drawing (annuitized) or $462 million (cash value), was drawn on March 30, 2012. The initial estimate for that Friday's drawing (following the March 27 drawing, which was $363 million annuity) was $476 million (later increased to $500 million and again to $540 million); brisk ticket sales pushed the jackpot values, both annuitized (to $656,000,000) and the cash option ($474,000,000) higher. The amount spent on Mega Millions for drawings following its previous jackpot win, on January 24, 2012, was at least $1,500,000,000. Three jackpot-winning tickets had been confirmed (one each in Illinois, Kansas, and Maryland).
Mega Millions' second-largest jackpot, $390 million, was for the March 6, 2007 drawing. Two tickets, one each from Georgia and New Jersey, split the then-record prize; both sets of winners chose the cash option, splitting $233 million (as noted below, interest rates change, resulting in different ratios between the cash values and annuity values of jackpots).
Mega Millions' third-largest jackpot annuity value ($380 million), and second-largest cash jackpot ($240 million), was for the January 4, 2011 drawing; two tickets, one each from Post Falls, Idaho and Ephrata, Washington, matched all six winning numbers, winning $190 million (annuity) each. The holders of each ticket also chose the cash option.
Two drawing machines are used in Mega Millions. The model used for Mega Millions is the Criterion II, manufactured by Smartplay International of Edgewater Park, New Jersey. The balls are moved around by means of counter-rotating arms which randomly mix the balls. One by one, the five white ball numbers drop through a hole in the bottom of the mixing drum. As of October 19, 2013, there are respectively 75 white balls in the first machine and the 15 gold-colored Mega Balls in the second machine.
Previous incarnations of The Big Game and Mega Millions have used different matrices:
|Date||Pick 5 out of||Pick 1 out of||Jackpot odds|
|September 6, 1996||50||25||1:52,968,999|
|January 13, 1999||50||36||1:76,275,359|
|May 15, 2002||52||52||1:135,145,919|
|June 22, 2005||56||46||1:175,711,535|
|October 19, 2013||75||15||1:258,890,850|
Mega Millions players, in 44 of its 45 jurisdictions, have the option to activate a multiplier, called Megaplier; it is functionally similar to the original version of Powerball's Power Play (Megaplier is not offered in California, because of California Lottery regulations that require pari-mutuel payouts in all draw games). By doubling the wager in a game (to $2), players have an opportunity to multiply any non-jackpot prize by 2, 3, 4 or 5. The Megaplier is drawn by the Texas Lottery (before the cross-sell expansion on January 31, 2010, it was the only lottery to offer Megaplier) by a random number generator (RNG). Prior to Powerball's price increase and subsequent change to a fixed prize table for Power Play, Megaplier differs from Power Play in that the odds for each Megaplier possibility are not uniform.
|Megaplier||Odds (through October 18, 2013)|
The extra weighting for a higher Megaplier results in the average expected Megaplier to be 3.476x.
Megaplier wagers made for drawings from September 12, 2010 through October 18, 2013 that won second prize were automatically elevated to 4x, winning $1 million. This "guarantee" did not carry over to the current version of Mega Millions, although the $1,000,000 second prize becomes $5,000,000 if the Megaplier is 5x.
The current winning chart from October 18, 2013:
(pool of 75)
(pool of 15)
|5||1||Jackpot||1 in 258,890,850|
|5||0||$1,000,000||1 in 18,492,204|
|4||1||$5,000||1 in 739,688|
|4||0||$500||1 in 52,835|
|3||1||$50||1 in 10,720|
|3||0||$5||1 in 766|
|2||1||$5||1 in 473|
|1||1||$2||1 in 56|
|0||1||$1||1 in 21|
Overall probability to win any prize is 1 in 14.7.
This lottery has an equal payout after it reaches $363 million. This takes into account the smaller prizes and the taxes associated with the payouts. This calculation assumes that one does not buy the 'megaplier' as this additional $1 only returns an extra $.38 cents of profit on average. Additionally, this assumes that the jackpot is never split, which they often are. When only considering the jackpot (and negating smaller prizes and taxes), one would have to buy 258.9 million tickets in order to ensure that one wins; this allows for profit with a jackpot higher than that amount.
The winning chart prior to October 18, 2013:
(pool of 56)
(pool of 46)
|5||1||Jackpot||1 in 175,711,536 (56C5×46)|
|5||0||$250,000||1 in 3,904,701 (56C5×46/45)|
|4||1||$10,000||1 in 689,065 |
|4||0||$150||1 in 15,313|
|3||1||$150||1 in 13,781|
|2||1||$10||1 in 844|
|3||0||$7||1 in 306|
|1||1||$3||1 in 141|
|0||1||$2||1 in 74.8 (the probability for this prize is not 1:46, because there is the possibility of matching at least one of the "white" balls, which decreases the likelihood of matching only the "Mega Ball")|
In California, prize levels are paid on a parimutuel basis, rather than the fixed lower-tier amounts for winners in other Mega Millions jurisdictions. California's eight lower-tier Mega Millions prize pools are separate from those shared by the other 44 lotteries. California's second prize is a "secondary jackpot"; its payout sometimes exceeds $1,000,000 cash, even though California does not offer the Megaplier.
In Georgia, New Jersey and Texas, players must choose, in advance, whether they wish to collect a jackpot in cash or annuity. Georgia and New Jersey winners can change an annuity ticket to cash should they be eligible for a jackpot share; however, the choice is binding in Texas.
If a jackpot prize is not claimed within the respective jurisdiction's time limit, each of the 45 Mega Millions members get back the money they contributed to that jackpot. Each of the 45 lotteries have rules in regards to unclaimed prizes; most Mega Millions members set aside unclaimed winnings for educational purposes.
Mega Millions winners have either 180 days (California non-jackpot prizes only) or one year to claim prizes, including the jackpot (although some Mega Millions winners lose the right to collect a jackpot in cash if they wait more than 60 days after the drawing).
The minimum age to purchase a Mega Millions ticket is 18, except in Arizona, Iowa and Louisiana, where the minimum is 21, and Nebraska; its minimum is 19. Generally (an exception is Virginia), minors can win on tickets received as gifts; the rules according to each Mega Millions member vary for minors receiving prizes.
Rules vary according to the applicable laws and regulations in the jurisdiction where the ticket is sold, and the winner's residence (e.g. if a New Jerseyan wins on a ticket bought near their workplace in Manhattan). Mega Millions winnings are exempt from state income tax in California and Pennsylvania, while New Hampshire, Texas and Washington do not have an income tax. On the other hand, some residents of New York City, Buffalo and Yonkers, New York pay three levels of income tax, as these cities levy income taxes.
Drawings are usually held at the studios of WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. The original host was WSB's chief meteorologist, Glenn Burns. Currently, most drawings are emceed by the full-time host of Georgia Lottery drawings, John Crow, with Brian Hooker substituting on occasion. For very large jackpots, the drawing sometimes is moved to Times Square in New York City, with New York Lottery announcer Yolanda Vega co-hosting.
Before January 31, 2010, Mega Millions was the only multi-jurisdictional lottery whose drawings were carried nationally, instead of airing only in participating jurisdictions. Powerball drawings also began to air after that date nationally via Chicago-based cable superstation WGN-TV. WGN simulcasts Mega Millions drawings on its national WGN America feed on Tuesdays and Fridays immediately following WGN's 9 p.m. (Central Time) newscast with Powerball drawings being aired on Wednesdays and Saturdays after said newscast (though both drawings air a minute later than on some television stations that carry either drawing). WGN serves as a default carrier of both Mega Millions and Powerball in certain participating states of either or both games where no local television station carries either multi-jurisdictional lottery's drawings (such as Oklahoma).
(in millions USD)
(in millions USD)
|$474||$656||March 30, 2012||3 (MD, KS, IL)||World's largest jackpot (cash or annuity)|
|$240||$380||January 4, 2011||2 (ID, WA)|
|$233||$390||March 6, 2007||2 (GA, NJ)|
|$210||$336||August 28, 2009||2 (NY, CA)||NY winner chose annuity (the cash/annuity choice made "when playing" required per then-NY Lottery rules)|
|$208.3||$330||August 31, 2007||4 (NJ, MD, TX, VA)|
|$202.9||$319||March 25, 2011||1 (Albany, NY)||Largest Mega Millions jackpot ever won on 1 ticket|
|$180||$363||May 9, 2000||2 (IL, MI)||Largest The Big Game jackpot|
Approximately 50 percent of Mega Millions sales is returned to players as prizes; the remainder is split (each lottery has different rules regarding these funds) among retailers, marketing, and operations, as well as the 45 jurisdictions offering the game; different lotteries uses the proceeds in different ways.
In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the legislature in Albany, fearing a monumental loss of revenue, passed legislation the following month, which was signed by Governor George Pataki, that included joining a multi-jurisdictional lottery game. Around the same time, for entirely different reasons, Ohio's governor also gave the green light to joining a multi-jurisdictional game. Both lotteries opted to join the then-The Big Game, which, at the time, had seven members. The added populations of the two new jurisdictions, in turn, led to a larger double matrix. The first machine continued to hold 52 balls, while 16 gold balls were added in the second, meaning there were 52 numbers to pick from in each part of a $1 game. On May 15, 2002, the game was renamed The Big Game Mega Millions; soon after, it became just Mega Millions. Except for the 2010 cross-selling expansion, this was the only time The Big Game, Mega Millions or Powerball simultaneously added more than one lottery.
In 2005, Mega Millions was the target of a mailing scam. A letter bearing the Mega Millions logo was used in a string of lottery scams designed to trick people into providing personal financial information by cashing bogus checks. The letter, which had been sent to people in several states via standard mail, included a check for what the scammers said was an unclaimed Mega Millions prize. If the check was cashed, it bounced, but not before the bank stamped it with a routing number and personal account information and sent it back to the fraudulent organization, providing them with the recipients' financial information.
A budget impasse due to the 2006 New Jersey Government shutdown led to the temporary closing of its non-essential agencies on July 1, 2006. Among the casualties were the Atlantic City casinos and the New Jersey Lottery. Not only were New Jersey's in-house games (such as Pick-6) not drawn for about a week, but all New Jersey lottery terminals were shut down, meaning Mega Millions could not be played in New Jersey, even though Mega Millions was drawn as usual. A similar shutdown happened in Minnesota on July 1, 2011.
Elecia Battle made national headlines in January 2004 when she claimed that she had lost the winning ticket in the December 30, 2003 Mega Millions drawing. She then filed a lawsuit against the woman who had come forward with the ticket, Rebecca Jemison. Several days later, when confronted with contradictory evidence, she admitted that she had lied. Battle was charged with filing a false police report the following day. As a result of this false report, she was fined $1,000, ordered to perform 50 hours of community service, and required to compensate the police and courts for various costs incurred.
The January 4, 2011 Mega Millions drawing drew attention for its similarity to "The Numbers," a sequence of six numbers that served as a plot device of the ABC drama series Lost. One such usage involved character Hugo "Hurley" Reyes playing the sequence in a similar "Mega Lotto" game, winning a nine-figure jackpot and subsequently experiencing numerous misfortunes in his personal life. The first three numbers (4, 8, 15) and mega ball (42) in the Mega Millions drawing matched the first three numbers and the final number (which Hurley also used as the "mega ball" number) in the Lost sequence. The last two numbers in the Mega Millions drawing did not match the last two numbers that were used in the scene. Those who played "The Numbers", including from quick-picks, won $150 ($118 in California) in a non-Megaplier game; $600 with the multiplier.
The 12 original (before the 2010 cross-sell expansion) Mega Millions members have each produced at least one Mega Millions jackpot winner.
|World's largest lottery jackpot|
May 9, 2000 – February 18, 2006
|World's largest lottery jackpot|
March 6, 2007 – present