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U.S. Mega Millions jackpot enters at record $1.6 billion

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Yes, that headline is correct: The Mega Millions jackpot is at $1.6 billion. With a B.
All eyes were on the latest drawing Friday night, when the jackpot was at an already mind-boggling $1 billion. However, with no ticket matching all six numbers drawn — 15, 23, 53, 65, 70 and Mega Ball 7 — the grand prize now swells to $1.6 billion, reported The Washington Post (US).

The Powerball jackpot also continued to swell, reaching $620 million, after no tickets matched all six numbers (16, 54, 57, 62, 69, and Powerball 23).

The next Mega Millions drawing is at 11 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, with the Powerball drawing on Wednesday.

“Mega Millions has already entered historic territory, but it’s truly astounding to think that now the jackpot has reached an all-time world record,” Gordon Medenica, lead director of the Mega Millions Group and director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming, said in a statement. “It’s hard to overstate how exciting this is — but now it’s really getting fun.”

Medenica told The Washington Post that about 57 percent of the possible number combinations were purchased in advance of Friday’s drawing and that it was an “extremely pleasant surprise” there was no winner.

“That means the odds were [a winning ticket] would have gotten picked, but it didn’t,” Medenica said. “This is really uncharted territory for all of us.”

What’s more, the jackpot is likely to grow even larger before Tuesday, as word of the record-breaking grand prize grows and prompts even people who don’t normally play the lottery to buy a ticket, Medenica said.

The estimated cash option for a $1.6 billion jackpot — should a winner choose to take a one-time lump sum payment instead of annual payouts over 30 years — is about $905 million, according to Mega Millions officials.

The previous record Mega Millions jackpot was $656 million, claimed in the drawing on Mar. 30, 2012. Winners in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland shared that jackpot.

Though no one won the grand prize outright on Friday, Mega Millions officials said there were 15 tickets sold with numbers that matched all five white balls but not the Mega Ball. Those “second-tier” winning tickets are worth at least $1 million.

The string of enormous Mega Millions jackpots in recent months has been the natural result of officials changing the rules of the game last October.

The officials had been worried that the relatively smaller but more frequent prizes — a “paltry” $100 million, for instance — would result in “jackpot fatigue,” Medenica previously told The Post.

Now, the Mega Millions jackpots grow and grow, creating huge prizes with infrequent payouts. The other significant change that helped fuel the jackpot growth was the increase in the Mega Millions ticket price, which doubled to $2.

Here’s how Mega Millions used to work: Players picked five numbers from 1 to 75 and a Mega number from 1 to 15. The odds of winning the top prize were 1 in 258,890,850.

Since Mega Millions modified the formula, players now pick five numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega number of 1 to 25. The odds of winning the jackpot are now 1 in 302,575,350.

The modifications had the intended effect. According to the official list of largest Mega Millions jackpots, three of the six top jackpot amounts have been awarded since the rules were changed last year.

A 2016 Powerball jackpot that was worth $1.58 billion is the current record holder for largest jackpot in history. Three winning tickets split that Powerball grand prize that year.

Medenica said every so often, a massive jackpot like this will seize the cultural imagination and prompt a run on tickets.

“It was 2½ years ago that Powerball had this kind of a run,” Medenica said. “I think when these things are separated by years, as they seem to be, they take on a life of their own. It just becomes what everybody’s talking about. . . . Everybody goes out and buys their tickets, has their dream.”


The Mega Millions jackpot drawing on Oct. 23 has soared to US$1.6 billion.
In the middle of the 20th century, when lotteries first started in the U.S., they were sold to states as a way to benefit the American public. That suggests that bigger and bigger jackpots should mean more tax dollars to spend on public services like education. But that isn’t happening. So what’s really going on? – reported The Conversation (US).

First, let’s look at how lottery jackpots got so big. This particular jackpot started at $40 million in July, and week after week, no one drew the winning numbers, but the tickets keep getting bought.

You too have the chance to win the biggest Mega Millions jackpot ever with the simple purchase of a $2 ticket. However, your chances are pretty slim. With a 1 in 300 million chance of picking the matching numbers, you are three times more likely to be killed by a vending machine. An easier way to really wrap your head around your chances: It’s like flipping a coin and getting heads 30 times in a row.

About half of Americans play the lottery today, compared to almost 70 percent in the 1980s. That means the lottery needs to extract more money from fewer people – a worrying trend for lottery runners.

Mega Millions decided to decrease each person’s chances of winning, in order to grow the jackpots bigger. Before 2017, players picked five numbers between 1 and 75 and then one number between 1 and 15. Now, each player now picks five numbers between 1 and 70 and then one number between 1 and 25. This increases your chances of matching five numbers and receiving some sort of prize, while decreasing your chances of winning the whole shebang. What’s more, the price of a ticket has doubled.

Apparently, as the jackpot gets bigger, more people are willing to buy a ticket. So the jackpots are getting bigger and people are spending more money – to the tune of $223 per year by the average American, according to a survey by online marketplace LENDedu.

Mega Millions profits are split between 46 lottery jurisdictions – 44 states, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Overall, 27 states earmark some or all lottery revenue for education. In D.C., the lotto dollars go to a general fund; in Colorado, the funds go environmental protection; and in Kansas, some of the money pays for juvenile detention facilities.

The lottery was promoted as a way to create more money for education – but most state legislatures haven’t been using the money as additional funding. Instead, they use the lottery money to pay for the education budget, spending the money that would have been used on education if there wasn’t a lottery budget on other things. As a result, public schools rarely get a budget boost.

An April study from the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research showed that many states – including California, Florida and Michigan – simply substitute lottery revenues for normal appropriations. As of 2016, North Carolina devoted a smaller portion of its total budget to education than it did before starting the lottery.

With states like New York getting $3.3 billion in revenue from the lottery in 2016, that is a pretty darn big bait and switch.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to ax the lottery. But it does beg the question: Is lottery money a good thing for a state? It does fund some government services, but it isn’t always clear what. And the harm of gambling addiction must be taken into account somehow.

For now, I’m off to buy a ticket for this Mega Millions jackpot. I mean, someone’s gotta win…

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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