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Mega Millions is one of the massive multi-state lotteries of the USA, playable in 44 states, as well as in the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. It started in 1996 as The Big Game, and adopted the Mega Millions name in 2002. Draws take place on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11pm ET in Atlanta, Georgia. Match all five main balls for a $1 million payout, or all five and the Megaball, too, for a jackpot usually worth several hundred million dollars. A single Mega Millions ticket costs $2, or $3 if you choose the Megaplier option.

For answers to all things Mega Millions, read the FAQ section which can be found at the bottom of this page!

Mega Millions Number Generator

Number of Lines

How to Play

To play Mega Millions, players choose five main numbers from a set of 1-70 and one Megaball number from a set of 1-25. The smallest prize available to players requires them to match only the Megaball. You can also win by matching three or more main balls without the Megaball. The jackpot can be won by matching all five main draw balls and the Megaball.

In most participating states, there is also a Megaplier option, which increases the value of all prizes (except the jackpot) by 2, 3, 4 or 5 times.

Why to Play

As one of the multi-state lotteries, Mega Millions offers some of the biggest prize payouts seen in the world, with relatively good odds of winning any prize at all at odds of 1 in 24. The chances of winning and the expected return per $2 wagered are slightly better than on Powerball, the other mega lottery, although overall, the two are quite similar.

Prizes start from matching just the so-called 'Megaball' for a $2 payout, and by playing the Megaplier option too, even this prize level can potentially pay out more than the original ticket price.

Supplementary Games

The Megaplier supplementary game adds $1 to the standard ticket price and can multiply all non-jackpot prize tiers by 2, 3, 4 or 5 times. This takes the largest of the fixed prizes - normally $1 million for matching all five of the main draw numbers but not the Megaball - to a possible $5 million.

Prizes and Odds of Winning

All non-jackpot prizes pay a fixed amount, except in California, where state laws mean they have to be calculated as a share of the money staked. The lowest prize tier effectively refunds your ticket price of $2, although by playing the Megaplier option, this can be multiplied so that you still come out in profit overall.

Mega Millions has overall odds of 1 in 24, meaning you should theoretically win a prize just more than once every 24 draws over the long term.

Match Prize Odds
5 + Megaball Jackpot 1 in 302,575,350
5 $1 million 1 in 12,607,306
4 + Megaball $10,000 1 in 931,001
4 $500 1 in 38,792
3 + Megaball $200 1 in 14,547
3 $10 1 in 606
2 + Megaball $10 1 in 693
1 + Megaball $4 1 in 89
Megaball only $2 1 in 37

Megaplier Prizes

Match Original Prize 2x 3x 4x 5x
5 + Megaball Jackpot Jackpot Jackpot Jackpot Jackpot
5 $1,000,000 $2,000,000 $3,000,000 $4,000,000 $5,000,000
4 + Megaball $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 $40,000 $50,000
4 $500 $1,000 $1,500 $2,000 $2,500
3 + Megaball $200 $400 $600 $800 $1,000
3 $10 $20 $30 $40 $50
2 + Megaball $10 $20 $30 $40 $50
1 + Megaball $4 $8 $12 $16 $20
Megaball only $2 $4 $6 $8 $10

The odds of Megaplier are as follows:

Megaplier Odds
2x 1 in 3
3x 1 in 2.5
4x 1 in 5
5x 1 in 15

Payment Options

There are two jackpot payout options: an annual annuity spread over 29 years (including an initial lump sum payout followed by 29 annual instalments) and a smaller cash lump sum option. This lump sum is actually the full value of the jackpot based on ticket sales, but overall the annuity option pays out more - with a 5% annual increase in instalments to cover the rising cost of living - as the lottery's operators are able to invest the portion of the jackpot that they have not yet paid over to you.

Both options incur the appropriate Federal and state income taxes, which again must be paid in full on the lump sum, or annually on the instalment plan, which usually means paying less tax overall.

History

Mega Millions’ history can be traced back to 1996, when it was known as The Big Game. When this game paid out a $363 million jackpot in 2000, more states wanted to join in.

In 2002, the first Mega Millions draw took place, with tickets sold in Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and new members, New York and Ohio.

Another major milestone was reached in 2010, when a new agreement allowed Mega Millions and Powerball tickets to be sold in the same states, rather than making states choose between the two. A total of 23 state lotteries joined in a single day on January 31st, 2010 under this agreement, and Mega Millions is now played in all the 44 states that operate lotteries, as well as the US Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

In October 2017, Mega Millions saw a number of game changes, including a decrease in the amount of numbers in the main ball set, and an increase in the amount of numbers in the Megaball ball set. As a result of this, much larger jackpots similar to those on Powerball are slated to occur more frequently.

The October 2017 changes also introduced the “Just the Jackpot” feature. This feature allows players to purchase a two-lined ticket for $3 and compete for the jackpot prize. Matching anything other than what is required for the jackpot will mean the ticket wins nothing, hence the feature’s name.

Where to Play

A total of 46 jurisdictions join in Mega Millions, including 44 US states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. You can also buy Mega Millions tickets online and have a lottery ticket courier go in person to a retailer in one of the 46 jurisdictions on your behalf; they will buy a physical ticket for you and hold on to it in a safe and secure place, so it can be delivered to you to claim any major prizes in person.

Participating jurisdictions include:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Where the Money Goes

Each state operates its own lottery board or organisation to decide which charitable causes or local initiatives to support. These can include help for the homeless or community support for elderly people, but in many cases, lottery funds are also reinvested into more general services like education.

FAQs

What were the biggest wins?

The March 30th, 2012 draw saw the jackpot pushed higher and higher by an unexpectedly large volume of ticket sales, from a first estimate of $476 million for the annuity jackpot to $640 million by the time the draw was made. The finalised figure for the jackpot actually reached $656 million with a cash lump sum option of $474 million, and three winners shared the jackpot.

On July 8th, 2016, a record-breaking one-winner jackpot of $536 million was paid out to a player in Indiana, the lump sum option of which was valued at $378 million.

How long is the prize claim deadline?

Depending on the state, you have from 90 days up to a year to claim any prizes. If you buy a ticket online through a lottery courier service, this gives you plenty of time to arrange delivery of your physical ticket and travel in person to claim a jackpot win.

Do I pay taxes on my prize?

Certain US lottery wins are subject to Federal taxes and state income taxes, although certain states do not deduct income tax from prizes. In a small number of cases some city-level taxes also apply, for example in New York City, where residents must therefore pay Federal, state and city income tax on their winnings.

Should I take the lump sum or the annuity?

Neither is exempt from income tax specifically, but if you take the one-off lump sum jackpot payout, you will pay tax on the full amount in a single financial year, meaning more of your prize will fall into a higher tax band. In comparison, taking the annuity jackpot - a larger payout overall - usually means paying less tax as more of your annual instalments will fall into lower tax bands.

When do ticket sales close?

It varies between states, though normally ticket sales will close 15-30 minutes before the draw takes place, and reopen a few minutes after.

If you are playing online, be sure to check this with the provider you are using, as they can sometimes close a few hours before the draw to ensure fair entry.

Does Mega Millions have a jackpot cap?

No – the jackpot for Mega Millions will roll over until it is won.

Amongst many other things, the Lotto Broker FAQs page explains why the Mega Millions jackpot is uncapped.

Is there a minimum Mega Millions jackpot?

The Mega Millions jackpot starts at $40 million.

How old do I need to be to play Mega Millions?

You must be 18 or older to purchase a Mega Millions ticket, unless you are playing from Arizona, Iowa, or Louisiana, where you’ll have to be 21 or older, or Nebraska, where you’ll have to be 19+.

What’s the cost of a Mega Millions ticket?

A Mega Millions ticket costs $2. Adding the Megaplier option will cost an extra $1.

For answers to lottery questions of a more general nature, head over to the FAQs page.