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How much is the Mega Millions in the US?

The Mega Millions lottery is one of the biggest lottery games in the United States. It is played in 45 states as well as Washington D.C. and the US Virgin Islands. Mega Millions holds the record for the largest lottery jackpot in US history at $1.537 billion, won in South Carolina on October 23, 2018.

Mega Millions Jackpot

The current Mega Millions jackpot is $494 million for the next drawing on Tuesday, October 18, 2022. The cash value of the jackpot is $248.7 million. This makes it the 12th largest Mega Millions jackpot ever.

The jackpot has been rolling over since it was last won on July 29, 2022 when a $1.337 billion jackpot was hit in Illinois. Since there was no jackpot winner for the October 14, 2022 drawing, the jackpot has rolled over again to reach the current amount.

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350. This means it is very difficult to win the top prize. However, there are 8 other prize tiers in Mega Millions that offer smaller prizes at better odds:

Prize Tier Odds of Winning
Match 5 white balls 1 in 12,607,306
Match 4 white balls + Mega Ball 1 in 931,001
Match 4 white balls 1 in 38,792
Match 3 white balls + Mega Ball 1 in 14,547
Match 3 white balls 1 in 606
Match 2 white balls + Mega Ball 1 in 693
Match 1 white ball + Mega Ball 1 in 89
Match Mega Ball 1 in 37

As you can see, matching even just the Mega Ball offers much better odds of 37 to 1 compared to the jackpot odds of over 300 million to 1.

How Mega Millions Works

Mega Millions is a 5/70 + 1/25 lottery game drawn every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11 p.m. ET. Players choose 5 main numbers from 1 to 70 and 1 Mega Ball number from 1 to 25.

To play, a player buys a $2 ticket and chooses 5 different main numbers and 1 Mega Ball number. There are 9 ways to win a prize in Mega Millions, from matching just the Mega Ball up to hitting the jackpot by matching all 5 main numbers and the Mega Ball.

The drawings are held at the WSB-TV studios in Atlanta, Georgia using 2 ball drawing machines. One machine holds the 70 white balls numbered 1-70 and the other holds the 25 yellow Mega Balls numbered 1-25. Five white balls are drawn followed by the yellow Mega Ball.

All prizes must be claimed within 180 days of the drawing in which they are won. However, some Mega Millions member states allow even longer periods to collect wins. Prizes over $599 must be claimed at a lottery office, while smaller prizes can be claimed at authorized lottery retailers.

The odds of winning any Mega Millions prize are 1 in 24. This compares favorably to Powerball, the other huge national lottery game, which has odds of 1 in 24.87.

Mega Millions History

Mega Millions began in 1996 as The Big Game when Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Maryland pooled their lotteries to offer a new multi-state jackpot game. Virginia joined shortly after in 1996.

The Big Game was renamed Mega Millions in 2002 when New York and Ohio joined. The starting jackpot was raised to $15 million and a cash option was added. Several other states gradually joined over the following years.

In October 2017, important changes were made to Mega Millions including raising the starting jackpot to $40 million, better overall odds, and bigger secondary prizes. More states also joined Mega Millions so that by 2010, 43 states plus D.C. and the Virgin Islands offered the game.

Some of the biggest Mega Millions jackpots in history include:

  • $1.537 billion won on 10/23/2018 in South Carolina
  • $1.050 billion won on 1/22/2021 sold in Michigan
  • $656 million won on 3/30/2012 in Illinois, Kansas, and Maryland
  • $648 million won on 12/17/2013 in California and Georgia
  • $543 million won on 7/24/2018 sold in California
  • $536 million won on 7/8/2016 sold in Indiana
  • $533 million won on 3/30/2018 sold in New Jersey
  • $522 million won on 6/7/2019 sold in California
  • $451 million won on 1/5/2018 sold in Florida
  • $437 million won on 1/1/2019 sold in New York

As you can see, some of the biggest jackpots have been won most recently reflecting the game’s increasing popularity.

Buying Mega Millions Tickets

Mega Millions tickets can be purchased in gas stations, convenience stores, and grocery stores in the 45 participating Mega Millions states. Many states also allow online ticket purchases through the state lottery website or mobile app.

When buying in person, a play slip must be filled out or the 6 numbers can be given verbally to the cashier. Tickets cannot be canceled once printed. It’s important to check your ticket right away to ensure the numbers on your ticket match what you intended to play.

Some states allow Mega Millions ticket subscriptions so the same numbers are automatically played in future draws. Syndicates allow groups of people to buy tickets together and share any prizes won.

Quick Pick vs Player Pick Tickets

There are two ways to choose your Mega Millions numbers when buying a ticket:

  • Quick Pick: Have the random number generator choose your 5 main numbers and Mega Ball number. This is the quickest method but leaves the choice entirely to chance.
  • Player Pick: Choose your own main numbers and Mega Ball number. Many people use birthdays, anniversaries, lucky numbers, or number patterns to select their numbers.

The advantage of Quick Pick is convenience while Player Pick gives you more control over your numbers.


Except in California, Mega Millions players can add the Megaplier option to their ticket for an extra $1 per play. The Megaplier multiplies non-jackpot prizes by 2x, 3x, 4x, or 5x randomly before each drawing.

The Megaplier does not apply to the Mega Millions jackpot but can turn a $1 million secondary prize into a $5 million win if the 5x Megaplier number is drawn. The odds of winning any prize are increased with Megaplier from 1 in 24 to 1 in 15.

Claiming Mega Millions Prizes

For prizes up to $599, winners have the option to claim at any authorized lottery retailer in the jurisdiction where the ticket was purchased. Prizes $600 and over must be claimed at a designated state lottery office. The specific claiming requirements vary by state.

The winner’s full name, city/state, and prize amount are made publicly available for prizes over $250,000. However, some states allow winners to remain anonymous or claim prizes through a trust.

For jackpots, winners can choose between annuity payments spread over 30 years or a reduced cash value lump sum. All advertised Mega Millions jackpots show the annuity amount. Powerball requires annuity payment of jackpots.

Both federal and state taxes apply to Mega Millions wins. State taxes vary but are usually at least 4-8% of the prize value. 25% federal tax withholding applies to winnings over $5,000.

Mega Millions tickets expire 180 days after the drawing in which they are eligible. Unclaimed prizes vary by state but most use expired ticket money to fund future prizes or lottery beneficiary funds.

Mega Millions Probabilities

The odds of matching all 5 main numbers plus the Mega Ball and winning the jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350. This is tougher than Powerball which has jackpot odds of 1 in 292,201,338.

The overall odds of winning any Mega Millions prize stand at 1 in 24. You can see the probability of matching various prize tiers below:

Prize Tier Probability
Match 5 white balls + Mega Ball 1 in 302,575,350
Match 5 white balls 1 in 12,607,306
Match 4 white balls + Mega Ball 1 in 931,001
Match 4 white balls 1 in 38,792
Match 3 white balls + Mega Ball 1 in 14,547
Match 3 white balls 1 in 606
Match 2 white balls + Mega Ball 1 in 693
Match 1 white ball + Mega Ball 1 in 89
Match Mega Ball 1 in 37

Overall, a player has a 1 in 24 chance of winning a prize when the Megaplier is not purchased. With the Megaplier, the odds become 1 in 15. Mega Millions has the best odds of winning a prize of any of the big multi-state lotteries.

Is Mega Millions a Good Investment?

Mega Millions tickets can be bought for $2 per play ($3 with Megaplier). The overall odds of winning any prize are 1 in 24. The odds of winning the jackpot are about 1 in 300 million.

Statistically, a player can expect to win back around $0.65 on average for every $1 spent on Mega Millions tickets. This represents a negative expected return of -35%.

However, Mega Millions tickets provide the chance for life-changing jackpot prizes of hundreds of millions of dollars. Even secondary prizes can be millions of dollars. For a small $2 ticket price, Mega Millions offers excitement and abundant possibilities.

Playing with discipline according to a set budget and not spending above one’s means is recommended. Mega Millions can provide entertainment value whether a player wins or not.

Strategies for Playing Mega Millions

There is no way to predict or increase the odds of winning Mega Millions jackpots. All number combinations have exactly the same probability of being chosen. However, there are some strategies players employ to make the game more fun.

Number Selection Strategies

Many players use the following strategies to choose numbers:

  • Play important dates like birthdays and anniversaries
  • Select numbers in a geometric pattern on the play slip
  • Always play the same set of lucky numbers
  • Use Quick Pick and let the computer select numbers
  • Mix high and low numbers evenly
  • Include random numbers along with special numbers

In the end, every strategy has the same odds. Consistency playing the same numbers may increase the chance of finally matching the winning numbers.

Pool Play

Joining an office or group lottery pool allows buying more tickets at reduced price per person. This increases the aggregate odds of the group winning a prize which then gets split evenly. Lottery pools are fun socially and great for playing when jackpots are elevated.

Take Advantage of Free Plays

Many states offer second chance promotional contests allowing submission of losing tickets for drawings to win free Plays or prize packages. These provide extra chances for prizes at no additional cost.

Have Fun and Play Responsibly

Mega Millions is best enjoyed when playing responsibly according to a predetermined budget. Never chase losses and only play for entertainment rather than as a way to try to make money.


How late can you buy Mega Millions tickets?

Sales cut-off times vary by state but usually fall 1-2 hours before the Tuesday/Friday evening drawings. Check with your local lottery for exact sales cut-off times.

Can you buy Mega Millions tickets online?

Yes, many states allow Mega Millions ticket purchases online through the state lottery website or mobile app. Players have to be physically located within the state at the time of purchase.

How old do you have to be to play Mega Millions?

You must be at least 18 years old to buy Mega Millions tickets in most participating states. Some states are 21. However, some states allow minors to play if the adult purchasing tickets signs the ticket for them.

What days are the Mega Millions drawings?

Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11 p.m. ET. Most states stop sales 1-2 hours before the drawings.

What is better, Powerball or Mega Millions?

Mega Millions and Powerball have similar prize structures. Mega Millions has slightly better odds of 1 in 24 for any prize compared to Powerball’s 1 in 24.87. Both games produce enormous jackpots. Choice comes down to personal preference.


Mega Millions is a hugely popular multi-state lottery game that offers life-changing jackpot prizes running into the hundreds of millions of dollars. It can be played in 45 states plus Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands. While odds of hitting the jackpot are around 1 in 300 million, secondary prizes of up to $1 million are still abundant.

Mega Millions delivers excitement twice a week with its Tuesday and Friday evening drawings. Players have the option to choose their own numbers or use Quick Pick. The just $2 ticket price provides plenty of entertainment and a small chance at a massive fortune.

Playing Mega Millions responsibly within a predetermined budget enhances the enjoyment. Statistically, Mega Millions offers a negative return like all lottery games. But as long as players are aware of the odds and play for fun, Mega Millions can deliver amazing dreams and possibilities.