$297 MILLION: Mega Millions jackpot raised again before tonight’s drawing

By Todd Northrop

Across the United States, tickets for tonight’s Mega Millions multi-state lottery drawing are being sold at a higher-than-expected rate, prompting the state lotteries to raise the official jackpot estimate to $297 million.

The lump-sum cash value of the Friday, December 6 jackpot is now $158.9 million.

As a result of the updated jackpot estimate, tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot now stands as the 21st largest United States lottery jackpot of all time, and the 8th-largest Mega Millions jackpot ever.  The cash value holds the same 24th position as it did previously.  (See the complete list of top 25 annuity and cash jackpots below.)

“New Jersey loves to hand out winnings to its players,” said Carole Hedinger, Executive Director of the New Jersey Lottery. “When the Mega Millions game enhancements were made back in October, they were designed to increase the number of players who would win prizes and allow the jackpots to climb higher, and that has proven to be effective.”

The current jackpot has climbed to $297 million after 18 rolls.

Lottery players seeking to check the winning numbers Saturday night are urged to use USA Mega (www.usamega.com).  State lottery Web sites are normally sluggish or brought to a standstill during busy periods, while USA Mega normally remains responsive.

Mega Millions drawing results will be posted immediately after the 11:00 pm drawing at USA Mega. The number of winners and new jackpot will be announced after all participating states have reported their data, which normally occurs within a few hours after the drawing.

Tickets will remain on sale typically until 10:45 pm Eastern Time on Saturday, although players should check with a lottery retailer in their state for the exact sales cutoff time. Players are advised not to wait until the last minute.

The odds of winning the jackpot are approximately 1 in 259 million. The odds of winning any of the Mega Millions prizes are 1 in 14.7.

Mega Millions tickets cost $1 each.  For an extra $1 per ticket players can purchase the Megaplier option, which multiplies any non-jackpot won by up to 5 times, depending on the Megaplier number drawn that evening.

The only state that does not offer the Megaplier is California, because state law banning fixed lottery prize amounts is not compatible with the fixed nature of the Megaplier payouts.

Lottery players can see an after-tax analysis of the current Mega Millions jackpot by visiting USA Mega’s Jackpot Analysis page.

Mega Millions features nine different prize levels, ranging from $1 all the way up to the jackpot. Players can win even if they just match one number — the Mega Ball number.

Top 25 United States lottery jackpots of all time

The increased jackpot for Friday’s Mega Millions drawing has raised its position on the top-25 list to the 21st position.

  1. Mega Millions: $656 million, Mar. 30, 2012 – Illinois, Kansas, Maryland
  2. Powerball: $590.5 million, May 18, 2013 – Florida
  3. Powerball: $587.5 million, Nov. 28, 2012 – Arizona, Missouri
  4. Powerball: $448.4 million, Aug. 7, 2013 – Minnesota, New Jersey (2)
  5. Powerball: $399.4 million, Sep. 18, 2013 – South Carolina
  6. Mega Millions: $390 million, Mar. 6, 2007 – Georgia, New Jersey
  7. Mega Millions: $380 million, Jan. 4, 2011 – Idaho, Washington
  8. Powerball: $365 million, Feb. 18, 2006 – Nebraska
  9. The Big Game: $363 million, May 9, 2000 – Illinois, Michigan
  10. Powerball: $340 million, Oct. 19, 2005 – Oregon
  11. Powerball: $338.3 million, Mar. 23, 2013 – New Jersey
  12. Powerball: $337 million, Aug. 15, 2012 – Michigan
  13. Powerball: $336.4 million, Feb. 11, 2012 – Rhode Island
  14. Mega Millions: $336 million, Aug. 28, 2009 – California, New York
  15. The Big Game: $331 million, Apr. 16, 2002 – Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey
  16. Mega Millions: $330 million, Aug. 31, 2007 – Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia
  17. Mega Millions: $319 million, Mar. 25, 2011 – New York
  18. Mega Millions: $315 million, Nov. 15, 2005 – California
  19. Powerball: $314.9 million, Dec. 26, 2002 – West Virgina
  20. Powerball: $314.3 million, Aug. 25, 2007 – Indiana
  21. Mega Millions: $297 million, Dec. 6, 2013 – Preliminary estimate, not won yet
  22. Powerball: $295.7 million, Jul. 29, 1998 – Indiana
  23. Powerball: $295 million, Aug. 25, 2001 – Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire
  24. Mega Millions: $294 million, Jul. 2, 2004 – Massachusetts
  25. Powerball: $276.3 million, Mar. 15, 2008 – West Virgina

For those keeping score, the number of jackpots in the top 25, by lottery game, are:

  • Mega Millions: 9
  • Powerball: 14
  • The Big Game: 2

The Big Game is the original name of Mega Millions, from the game’s first drawing on Sep. 6, 1996 through May 14, 2002.  The name was changed to Mega Millions starting with the May 17, 2002 drawing.

Top 25 cash value jackpots

Since many lottery winners collect their winnings in cash, the lump-sum payout is an important measure of what a winning ticket could be worth.

Even though the cash value has increased, the Friday Mega Millions drawing holds firm to the 24th position on the all-time list of largest United States lottery cash values.

  1. Mega Millions: $471 million cash, Mar. 30, 2012 ($656 million annuity) – Illinois, Kansas, Maryland
  2. Powerball: $384.7 million cash, Nov. 28, 2012 ($587.5 million annuity) – Arizona, Missouri
  3. Powerball: $370.9 million cash, May 18, 2013 ($590.5 million annuity) – Florida
  4. Powerball: $258.2 million cash, Aug. 7, 2013 ($448.4 million annuity) – Minnesota, New Jersey (2)
  5. Mega Millions: $240 million cash, Jan. 4, 2011 ($380 million annuity) – Idaho, Washington
  6. Mega Millions: $233.1 million cash, Mar. 6, 2007 ($390 million annuity) – Georgia, New Jersey
  7. Powerball: $224.7 million cash, Aug. 15, 2012 ($337 million annuity) – Michigan
  8. Powerball: $223.3 million cash, Sep. 18, 2013 ($399.4 million annuity) – South Carolina
  9. Mega Millions: $214 million cash, Aug. 28, 2009 ($336 million annuity) – California, New York
  10. Powerball: $211 million cash, Mar. 23, 2013 ($338.3 million annuity) – New Jersey
  11. Powerball: $210 million cash, Feb. 11, 2012 ($336.4 million annuity) – Rhode Island
  12. Mega Millions: $202.9 million cash, Mar. 25, 2011 ($319 million annuity) – New York
  13. Mega Millions: $194.4. million cash, Aug. 31, 2007 ($330 million annuity) – Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia
  14. Mega Millions: $185 million cash, Nov. 15, 2005 ($315 million annuity) – California
  15. The Big Game: $180 million cash, May 9, 2000 ($363 million annuity) – Illinois, Michigan
  16. Powerball: $177.3 million cash, Feb. 18, 2006 ($365 million annuity) – Nebraska
  17. Mega Millions: $168 million cash, July 2, 2004 ($294 million annuity) – Massachusetts
  18. Mega Millions: $167.7 million cash, Feb. 22, 2008 ($275 million annuity) – Georgia
  19. Powerball: $166 million cash, Aug. 25, 2001 ($295 million annuity) – Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire
  20. Mega Millions: $165.2 million cash, May 4, 2010 ($266 million annuity) – California
  21. Powerball: $164.4 million cash, won Oct. 19, 2005 ($340 million annuity) – Oregon
  22. Mega Millions: $164 million cash, Feb. 28, 2006 ($270 million annuity) – Ohio
  23. Powerball: $161.5 million cash, July 29, 1998 ($295.7 million annuity) – Indiana
  24. Mega Millions: $158.9 million cash, Dec. 6, 2013 ($297 million annuity) – Preliminary estimate, not won yet
  25. Mega Millions: $156.1 million cash, Sept. 16, 2005 ($258 million annuity) – New Jersey