Mega Millions (initially called The Big Game Mega Millions as the successor of The Big Game) is an American multi-jurisdictional $1 lottery game. The first (The Big Game) Mega Millions drawing was in 2002 (see below).
The minimum Mega Millions advertised jackpot is $12,000,000, paid in 26 equal yearly installments (unless the cash option is chosen); usually, the jackpot increases when there is no top-prize winner. However, despite no jackpot winner for the $12,000,000 December 18, 2012 drawing, the jackpot remained at $12,000,000 for the drawing to be held on December 21. (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 (see below), pays the approximate present value of the installments. Mega Millions currently uses a 5/56 (white balls) plus 1/46 (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, or 4. The Megaplier was made available to all Mega Millions jurisdictions in January 2011; it began as a Texas-only option. Mega Millions is drawn at 10:59 p.m. Eastern time Tuesdays and Fridays, including holidays. Mega Millions is administered by a consortium of its 12 original lotteries and the drawings are held at WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. supervised by the Georgia Lottery.
The largest jackpot in Mega Millions, as well as in American lottery history, was $656 million annuity value (with a cash option of $474 million) 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 as of 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 May 15, 2013, there are 45 lotteries offering Mega Millions and Powerball, as Florida joined Mega Millions on that date; the first Mega Millions drawing to include Florida-bought tickets was two days later. (Puerto Rico, whose lottery began in the 1930s, does not participate in either game.)
The current incarnation of Mega Millions will have its final drawing on October 18, 2013; the new version is to feature higher jackpots (whose minimum will be $15,000,000 with rollovers of at least $5,000,000) and a $1,000,000 second prize on a basic $1 play. Players will choose 5 of 75 white ball numbers, and 1 of 15 "Gold Ball" numbers. The first drawing with the updated format will be four days later.
The Megaplier option will remain; it will include a 5x multiplier.
Current and future prize levels (effective October 22, 2013) on a $1 play:
Payouts in California will remain pari-mutuel.
The odds of winning the jackpot are increased to 1 in 258.9 million; however, odds of winning any prize will decrease to 1 in 14.71.
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.)
Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah do not have laws establishing a state Lottery. Although Puerto Rico has a lottery, it does not participate in either Mega Millions or Powerball; it does not plan to join either game yet. On March 14, 2013, Wyoming became the 44th state to establish a state lottery. However they do not offer any games yet.
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 (Georgia Lottery) and Penelope W. Kyle (Virginia Lottery.) The Big Game initially was drawn weekly, on Friday nights.
The Georgia Lottery was a member of MUSL at the time and wanted to sell both games for the remainder of 1996; however, within a few days, Georgia was forcibly removed from 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 do so before The Big Game became Mega Millions in 2002.
Ohio and New York, on May 15, 2002, joined the corsortium when the game took on its second name, 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." The first (The Big Game) Mega Millions drawing was held on May 17. The Mega Millions trademark is owned by the Illinois Lottery. The first three lotteries to join Mega Millions were Washington (September 2002), Texas (2003), and California (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 added Mega Millions in 2003, it began offering an option, initially available only to Texas Lottery players, 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; by January 2011, all Mega Millions lotteries, except for California, offered the Megaplier. The Texas Lottery owns the trademark to Megaplier.
On June 24, 2005, to commemorate California joining Mega Millions, the drawing was held in Hollywood, with Carrie Underwood assisting Glenn Burns for the draw.
For the drawing of November 15, 2005, 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 tax. 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 US 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 MUSL allowed all US 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 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. On March 20, 2010, Nebraska became the 37th Mega Millions member. On March 28, 2010, Oregon became the 38th Mega Millions member. Arizona, on April 18, 2010, became Mega Millions' 39th member. Maine, on May 9, 2010, became Mega Millions' 40th member. 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 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 Megaplier. Nebraska became the 25th lottery to offer Megaplier. Oregon became the 26th lottery to offer Megaplier. Arizona, by joining Mega Millions, became the 27th lottery to offer Megaplier. Maine, by joining Mega Millions, became the 28th lottery to offer Megaplier. Colorado and South Dakota joined Mega Millions, raising the number to 37 lotteries offering Megaplier.
Mega Millions tickets bought with the Megaplier, beginning September 12, 2010, automatically win $1 million (instead of $250,000) if the five white balls are matched, but not also the Mega Ball.
On March 13, 2010, New Jersey became the first Mega Millions member (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. That jackpot was $12 million annuity.
The largest Mega Millions jackpot, advertised as $640 million at the time of the drawing (annuitized) or $462 million (cash value), was drawn on Friday, March 30, 2012. The initial estimate for this 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 million) and the cash option ($474 million) higher. The amount spent on Mega Millions for drawings following its most recent jackpot win, on January 24, 2012, was at least $1.5 billion. 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.
Since June 2005, a player picks, or allows the lottery terminal to pick, five different numbers from 1 through 56 (white balls) and one number from 1 through 46 (the Mega Ball number, a gold-colored ball). The Mega Ball number is drawn from a separate machine, so it can be a duplicate of one of the white ball numbers. The Mega Ball number cannot cross over to be used for matching a white ball number, or vice versa. Each play (a selection of six numbers for one drawing) costs $1. Tickets may be obtained from retail locations; some lotteries also allow subscription play.
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. There are 56 white balls in the first machine; the 46 Mega Balls in the second machine are gold-colored.
Previous incarnations of The Big Game and Mega Millions have used different matrices:
Mega Millions players, in 43 of its 44 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, or 4. 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 had differed from Power Play in two ways: (1) there is no 5x Megaplier, and (2) the odds for each Megaplier possibility are not uniform (the 4x multiplier is heavily weighted so that it has a 12-in-21 chance of being selected.)
Despite not having a 5x possibility, the extra weighting for a higher Megaplier results in the average expected Megaplier to be 3.476x. This is similar to the $1 Powerball's Power Play expectation of just over 3.5x.
Megaplier wagers made for drawings on or after September 12, 2010 that win second prize are automatically elevated to 4x, winning $1 million. This second-prize guarantee had been added to Powerball's Power Play; with Powerball now a $2 game, second prize winners win $1 million without Power Play, or $2 million if activated.
As part of the Megaplier expansion to all Mega Millions members, its RNG drawings are expected to move to Atlanta, Mega Millions' home base.
A player wins a prize according to the following chart:
Overall probabilities: 1 in 755 of winning sixth prize or higher, 1 in 40 of winning any prize.
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 43 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 October 2013, Mega Millions will undergo a format change; the upcoming version will feature an increase in second prize from $250,000 to $1,000,000.
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 44 Mega Millions members get back the money they contributed to that jackpot. Each of the 44 lotteries have rules in regards to unclaimed prizes; most Mega Millions members set aside unclaimed winnings for educational purposes.
In 2007, a $31 million prize went unclaimed in New York. Many prizes of $250,000 each have been unclaimed, including several in Michigan for 2007 drawings.
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 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 subbing 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 cable superstation WGN-TV. WGN simulcasts Mega Millions drawings on its national WGN America superstation 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 the 9 p.m. newscast (though both drawings air a minute later than on some television stations that carry either drawing).
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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 44 jurisdictions offering the game; different lotteries uses the proceeds in different ways.
In January 2012, Mega Millions' rival Powerball was altered; among the changes are a price increase of $1 for each play, which means 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. Louisiana joined Mega Millions on November 16, 2011.
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 Gov. 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 less-important 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 Mega Millions drawing of December 30, 2003. 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. She was charged with filing a false police report the following day. As a result of this false report, Battle 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 television 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.