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How do you enter the US Mega Millions lottery?

The Mega Millions is a multi-state lottery game in the United States with jackpots starting at $40 million. It is drawn twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, and tickets can be purchased from lottery retailers in 45 states plus Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The game was introduced in 2002 and has awarded some massive jackpots over the years, including a record $1.537 billion prize in 2018. But how exactly do you play and enter the Mega Millions lottery? Here is a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know.

Game Overview

Mega Millions is a multi-state lottery game administered by state lotteries. Players select five main numbers between 1-70 and one Mega Ball number between 1-25. To win the jackpot, you must match all six numbers drawn. There are also eight other prize tiers for matching some of the numbers. Mega Millions drawings take place every Tuesday and Friday at 11 p.m. ET.

How to Play

To play Mega Millions, visit an authorized lottery retailer and:

  • Ask for a Mega Millions quick pick or play slip
  • Choose 5 different numbers between 1-70 for the white balls. You can select your own numbers or ask for a quick pick and let the numbers be randomly generated.
  • Choose 1 number between 1-25 for the Mega Ball. Again you can pick this yourself or get a random quick pick number.
  • Give your completed play slip or ask for your quick pick ticket to be entered.
  • Pay $2 per play. You can enter multiple draws in advance if you wish.

Once you have a ticket, you’re in with a chance to win prizes when the numbers are drawn twice a week.

Mega Millions Prize Tiers

There are nine Mega Millions prize tiers based on how many of your numbers match those drawn. The prizes and odds of winning are:

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

As you can see, matching all 5 main numbers and the Mega Ball offers the biggest prize but the lowest odds. The odds get better as you match fewer numbers.

Mega Millions Jackpot

The Mega Millions jackpot starts at $40 million and continues growing until a winner matches all six numbers. The jackpots can grow very large when rollovers occur and no players hit the top prize.

The Mega Millions record jackpot so far was an incredible $1.537 billion, won in South Carolina on October 23, 2018. The winner could choose between an immediate cash lump sum of $877.8 million or the full amount in annual payments over 30 years.

Jackpots are split if there is more than one top prize winner. Winnings are subject to federal and jurisdictional taxes.


Except for the jackpot, all Mega Millions prizes can be multiplied 2x, 3x, 4x or 5x with the Megaplier option for an extra $1 per play. This multiplies your winnings if the Megaplier ball drawn matches your Megaplier option.

For example, matching 4 main numbers would normally win $500. But if you chose the Megaplier and the 3x Megaplier ball is drawn, you’ll get $1,500 instead of $500.

The Megaplier only applies to the seven lower prize tiers. But it offers bigger prizes without affecting the already long jackpot odds.

Where to Play

Mega Millions tickets can be purchased from lottery retailers in 45 states plus Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands. The states which do not participate are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Utah

If you live in one of the participating areas, you can find authorized Mega Millions retailers in grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores and newsstands. Many lotteries also allow online and mobile app ticket purchases too.

You need to be at least 18 years old to play. In some states the minimum age is 21. Tickets sales are suspended shortly before the draw takes place to allow time to process entries.

Sales resume shortly after the draw when new numbers are selected for the next jackpot.

Key Facts

Here are some key facts about the Mega Millions lottery:

  • Introduced in 2002 as the Big Game before becoming Mega Millions in 2010
  • Drawn at 11 p.m. ET every Tuesday and Friday
  • Tickets cost $2 per play
  • Starting jackpot is $40 million, rolls over until won
  • Jackpots paid in annual installments over 30 years or immediate cash option
  • Odds of winning jackpot 1 in 302 million
  • Overall odds of any prize 1 in 24
  • 45 participating states, D.C. and Virgin Islands
  • Megaplier option for 2x-5x non-jackpot prizes

So in summary, playing Mega Millions gives you an exciting chance twice a week to win multimillion dollar jackpots and secondary prizes for just $2 a ticket. Huge jackpots are regularly offered by Mega Millions which can completely change your life if you’re lucky enough to match all 6 numbers.


Mega Millions has an interesting history having undergone a few changes since it was first introduced in the U.S. in 1996. Here is an overview of the key events:

The Big Game – 1996

Mega Millions began life as The Big Game when it launched in August 1996. It was formed as a multi-state lottery for states which did not participate in the Powerball game.

The Big Game originally involved the lotteries of Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia. Tickets cost $1 to play.

More States Join – 1998

New Jersey and Washington joined The Big Game in May 1998, pushing the starting jackpot up to $2 million from $1 million. Two years later in May 2000, New York and Ohio also joined.

Name Change to Mega Millions – 2002

In May 2002, The Big Game was renamed Mega Millions. This change occurred alongside the introduction of the Megaplier option to multiply non-jackpot prizes for an extra $1 per play.

California joined at this time, greatly increasing the number of players and pushing jackpots higher.

More States Sign Up – 2010

Mega Millions underwent a major expansion in January 2010 when it signed up additional states which did not offer either Mega Millions or Powerball. Ten new lotteries joined at this time including Texas, Florida and New York.

This change meant Mega Millions tickets were now sold in most U.S. jurisdictions with massive jackpot rollovers becoming the norm.

Record $1.5 Billion Jackpot – 2018

On October 23, 2018, Mega Millions produced a record shattering $1.537 billion jackpot after months of rollovers. It remains the biggest U.S. lottery prize ever won.

Just one ticket sold in South Carolina matched all six numbers to win the entire jackpot. It was also the world’s largest lottery prize ever won on a single ticket.

Current Game Format

Mega Millions continues today with drawings held every Tuesday and Friday evenings. It has awarded some of the biggest lottery jackpots in history and regularly offers massive eight and nine-figure top prizes.

With nine prize tiers offering exciting prizes from $2 million up, Mega Millions gives players across most of the U.S. the chance to become an instant multimillionaire every week for just $2 a game.

Winning Strategies

With jackpots starting at $40 million and often reaching far higher, it’s no wonder Mega Millions is so popular. Who wouldn’t want to win hundreds of millions of dollars? But is there a proven strategy to boost your odds in this massive lottery game?

Opt for Quick Pick

Some lottery fans spend ages agonizing over which numbers to pick for their ticket. However, U.S. Mega Millions statistics show that around 70% of winners have been quick picks where players let the lottery terminal randomly select the numbers.

The machine cycles through every possible number combination. So mathematically your odds are the same whether you choose your own numbers or quick pick. Given the majority of winners are quick picks, that seems the safest option.

Don’t Pick Obvious Numbers

Certain figures like birthdays are popular lottery picks. But if you opt for numbers 1-31 only, you decrease your odds because those numbers will be selected by more players. Random quick pick numbers spread across the whole 1-70 range for the main balls gives you greater coverage.

Consider Playing Multiple Tickets

Playing 10 different number combinations gives you 10 times as many chances to win compared to a single ticket. If you can afford it, buying multiple tickets may increase your odds of winning a prize. But stick within your budget as lottery games are purely gambling.

Use Lucky Number Generators

Some websites offer random Mega Millions number generators if you want to pick your own numbers. This gives lottery numbers selected by an algorithm rather than your own guesses or significant dates. Again this spreads numbers evenly across the range.

Join an Office Lottery Syndicate

Forming a lottery syndicate with co-workers, friends or family members allows you to buy more tickets and combinations than playing solo. You share any prizes won which boosts your chances of winning. Just be sure to formalize the syndicate agreement in writing first.

Check Your Tickets Carefully

It sounds obvious but check your tickets thoroughly against the winning numbers. There have been unclaimed Mega Millions prizes in the past where players misread their tickets and thought they had lost. Don’t make that costly mistake!

Persistence Is Key

Mega Millions has awarded over 600 top prizes since 2002. But your odds of winning the jackpot are just 1 in over 302 million on any single ticket. Playing consistently over months or years improves your overall odds of a big win.

Have Fun and Be Responsible

Approach Mega Millions as entertainment and have fun dreaming about what you’d do with a massive jackpot win. But only spend what you can realistically afford on lottery tickets as Mega Millions is purely based on random luck.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mega Millions is a hugely popular lottery game across the U.S. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about playing and winning.

How much does a Mega Millions ticket cost?

Mega Millions tickets cost $2 per play. You can enter multiple upcoming draws on a single ticket for $2 per play per draw. You also have the option to add Megaplier for an extra $1 which multiplies non-jackpot prizes if that multiplier number is drawn.

Can you buy Mega Millions tickets online?

Many state lotteries allow Mega Millions tickets to be purchased online as well as in authorized retailers. You typically need to be a resident of that state and register for an account. However some states still require tickets to be bought in-person so check your local lottery’s rules.

What days are the Mega Millions drawings?

Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11 p.m. ET. Tickets sales cut off around an hour before the draw but times vary between lotteries.

What is the biggest Mega Millions jackpot ever?

The record Mega Millions jackpot so far was a staggering $1.537 billion won on October 23, 2018. The lucky single ticket was sold in South Carolina. The holder could take a cash lump sum of $877.8 million or annual payments over 29 years.

Has anyone won the Mega Millions jackpot twice?

Incredibly, yes! A man from Wisconsin won $10,000 on Mega Millions in 2007, followed by a $208 million jackpot on the game in 2008. He is the only person to score two Mega Millions jackpot wins to date. The odds of doing so are 1 in over 302 quintillion!

Where does Mega Millions lottery money go?

Mega Millions ticket sales are split between the participating state lotteries to fund programs decided individually by each lottery jurisdiction. These include education, health, transportation, infrastructure and environmental projects. Retailers receive commissions for ticket sales.

Are Mega Millions prizes taxed?

Yes, Mega Millions prizes are taxable. Federal tax of 24% is withheld from jackpots before payout. Winners also pay tax on lottery winnings in their state of residence. Some states have no tax while others can be over 10%.

Can a group win the Mega Millions jackpot?

Yes, the Mega Millions jackpot can be won and shared by multiple people who have played together in a lottery syndicate, office pool or other group. Any prizes are shared equally among syndicate members based on the syndicate agreement.

Can Mega Millions winners remain anonymous?

Some states allow Mega Millions winners to remain anonymous by claiming prizes via a trust or other legal entity. However other states require the name and location of the winner to be made public. Winners should check their local lottery’s rules on prize claims and publicity.

What is the Megaplier option?

Megaplier costs an extra $1 per Mega Millions ticket played. It multiplies any non-jackpot prizes you win by 2x, 3x, 4x or 5x if the drawn Megaplier ball matches your chosen Megaplier number. For example, matching 4 main numbers would normally win $500 but becomes $1,000 if the 2x Megaplier ball is drawn.


Mega Millions offers lottery fans across most of the U.S. an exciting chance to play for massive multimillion dollar jackpots twice a week. With jackpots starting at $40 million and often far higher after rollovers, it’s always worth playing for just $2 a ticket.

While winning the jackpot involves huge luck, there are several strategies such as playing quick picks and multiple tickets that may slightly improve your odds. Forming a lottery pool syndicate also boosts your chances.

Approach Mega Millions as fun entertainment and always play responsibly. But with record jackpots over $1.5 billion in the past, you just never know when your lucky numbers may come up and completely change your life!