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Is Mega Millions nationwide or by state?

Mega Millions is a multi-state lottery game that is available for play in 45 states across the United States as well as Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mega Millions is coordinated by the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) and drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening. While Mega Millions has national brand recognition and interstate collaboration, each participating state operates its own jurisdiction and rules over the game.

How Mega Millions Works

Mega Millions players select five main numbers between 1-70 and one Mega Ball number between 1-25. To win the Mega Millions jackpot, players must match all six numbers drawn. The starting jackpot is $40 million and continues to grow by at least $5 million each drawing until there is a winner. Jackpots can roll into the hundreds of millions before a lucky player hits the jackpot.

There are also eight other prize levels in Mega Millions that have smaller prizes for matching some, but not all, of the numbers drawn. For example, matching just the Mega Ball number wins a $2 prize. Matching two main numbers and the Mega Ball wins $10. The overall chances of winning any Mega Millions prize is 1 in 24.

Mega Millions Participating States

The following 45 states, plus Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, currently participate in Mega Millions:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

The five states that do not participate in Mega Millions are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. These states do not sell Mega Millions tickets or contribute to the game’s prize pools.

Independent State Lotteries

While Mega Millions is coordinated across multiple states, each state lottery has jurisdiction over the operation of Mega Millions within its borders. Some key examples of independent state control include:

  • Each state lottery sets the Mega Millions ticket price within its jurisdiction. Most states sell tickets for $2, but some states charge $1 or $3 per play.
  • States determine if Mega Millions winners can remain anonymous. Some states allow jackpot winners to protect their identity, while others require public release of winner names.
  • Each state contributes a percentage of Mega Millions revenue to a shared jackpot pool. This percentage can vary by state.
  • States have individual rules, laws, and policies regarding lottery retailer commissions, unclaimed prizes, and use of lottery profits for public programs.

While Mega Millions jackpots and game rules are consistent across participating lotteries, states ultimately operate as independent jurisdictions.

Buying Tickets Across State Lines

Mega Millions tickets can only be purchased within a participating Mega Millions state. Lottery ticket sales are restricted within states’ borders. Residents in one state are not permitted to cross state lines to purchase Mega Millions tickets in another state.

Some key rules include:

  • Retailers are only permitted to sell lottery tickets to in-state customers, whether face-to-face sales or online/mobile app sales.
  • States use geofencing and location services to prohibit out-of-state residents from buying state lottery products online or through mobile apps.
  • When purchasing online lottery tickets, proof of in-state residency and age is required.
  • Bringing lottery tickets across state lines is prohibited under federal law and state compacts.

While Mega Millions is an interstate game, individuals are restricted to purchasing tickets from the state lottery where they reside. Crossing state lines to buy tickets where jackpots may be higher is prohibited.

Shared Jackpot Pool

Although each Mega Millions state operates independently, the game’s giant jackpots are made possible by a shared jackpot pool between participating lotteries. Here is an overview:

  • Each Mega Millions ticket sale contributes a percentage to the game’s jackpot prize pool.
  • The contribution percentage can vary between 35-50% per state.
  • As the jackpot grows across draws without a winner, money is contributed from each state with each new ticket purchase.
  • This aggregated jackpot pool is then advertised as a massive nationwide prize shared across all participating states.
  • When the jackpot is won, the prize liability is shared proportionately among the lotteries based on sales and contribution rates.

This shared jackpot pool allows the Mega Millions jackpot to rapidly grow into the hundreds of millions of dollars and creates national excitement around potentially gigantic shared prizes.

Where Mega Millions Revenue Goes

In Fiscal Year 2022, U.S. lotteries generated over $100 billion in gross revenue from traditional games like Mega Millions and Powerball. While a portion goes towards prizes, retailer commissions, and operations, net lottery revenue also supports key public causes.

Here is a breakdown of where Mega Millions revenue goes in most participating states:

Mega Millions Revenue Allocation Typical Percentage Range
Prizes 50-65%
Retailer Commissions 6-10%
Operations Expenses 10-15%
Public Programs 15-25%

While each state has discretion over precise allocations, net Mega Millions profits are generally directed to supporting major public causes like education, environmental protection, senior citizens, and state general funds.

Notable Mega Millions Contributions

  • In Georgia, Mega Millions helps fund the HOPE scholarship and grant program which has provided over $10 billion in tuition assistance.
  • The Florida Lottery has contributed over $38 billion to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund through Mega Millions sales.
  • The California Lottery provided $156 million to public environmental protection programs in 2020-2021 through revenues generated from games like Mega Millions.

Mega Millions Odds and Probabilities

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are steep, at only 1 in 302,575,350. This is because players must correctly match 5 numbers from 1-70 plus the Mega Ball from 1-25. The odds get much better for smaller prizes:

Mega Millions Prize Odds of Winning
Jackpot 1 in 302,575,350
$1,000,000 1 in 12,607,306
$10,000 1 in 931,001
$500 1 in 38,792
$200 1 in 14,547
$10 1 in 606
$4 1 in 89
$2 1 in 37

When the jackpot exceeds around $500 million, the odds of a single ticket winning are comparable to being struck by lightning (around 1 in 1.5 million). Playing the smaller prize levels still provides excitement without astronomical odds.

Probabilities of Shared Jackpots

Although the overall odds of winning the jackpot are incredibly low, the chances of having to share the jackpot with other winners increases as more tickets are sold. Some key probabilities:

  • At jackpots under $150 million, there is a 63% chance the winner will hit solo.
  • At $550 million, there is just a 16% probability the jackpot is won by a single player.
  • At $1.1 billion, the modeled probability of a solo winner is only 3%.
  • As jackpot sizes swell, multiple winners become more likely as more players chase fortune.

While shared jackpots mean reduced prizes, the odds of winning any money only improve as the jackpot grows larger and more tickets are in play.

Largest Mega Millions Jackpots

Since Mega Millions was introduced in 2002, there have been enormous jackpots won by players across the U.S. Here are the 5 largest Mega Millions jackpots to date:

Rank Jackpot Amount Date Won Winning State
1 $1.537 billion October 2018 South Carolina
2 $1.050 billion January 2021 Michigan
3 $656 million March 2012 Illinois, Kansas, Maryland
4 $648 million December 2013 California, Georgia
5 $543 million July 2018 California

These enormous jackpots were shared by either single or multiple ticket holders across different participating states. Mega Millions has minted several billionaires and countless millionaires over the past 20 years.

Notable Mega Millions Winners

Here are some interesting profiles of past Mega Millions jackpot winners:

  • In 2021, a four member lottery pool from Michigan won half of a $1 billion jackpot. Two members were retired auto workers from the Detroit area.
  • A winning South Carolina family opted to take the $1.5 billion prize in 2018 as a one-time cash lump sum of $877 million.
  • An anonymous ticket holder in Ohio won a $543 million Mega Millions jackpot in 2018. Ohio allows jackpot winners to remain anonymous.
  • A New Hampshire woman won a $560 million Powerball jackpot, then later won $1 million playing Mega Millions with the same number combination.
  • A California man accidentally washed his $266 million winning Mega Millions ticket in his jeans. After speaking with lottery officials, he was still able to collect.
  • A 20 year old Florida college student randomly chose winning Mega Millions numbers using a lucky coin given to him by his grandfather.

Mega Millions has made regular Americans into billionaires overnight in all areas of the country. Winners come from all walks of life.

Unclaimed Mega Millions Prizes

With so much money at stake, lottery officials report that some winning Mega Millions tickets go unclaimed each year. Reasons winning tickets can go unredeemed include:

  • Players misplace or accidentally destroy tickets before checking numbers.
  • Lottery players fail to properly check their numbers after a drawing.
  • Some players don’t realize they’ve won second tier prizes below the jackpot.
  • Winning tickets are lost, discarded, or stolen before being claimed.
  • Tickets are damaged to the point of being unreadable.
  • Winners pass away before tickets can be redeemed within the required time period.

State lottery claim periods for winning tickets also vary between 90 days and 1 year from the draw date. Unclaimed tickets expire worthless if not redeemed in time. According to lottery data, over $2.3 billion in winning lottery tickets went unclaimed across the U.S. in the past 12 years.

Should You Play Mega Millions?

Playing Mega Millions can be exciting with the possibilities of enormous jackpot winnings. However, responsible consumers should carefully consider these factors before playing:

  • The overwhelming odds of 1 in 302 million against winning the jackpot.
  • Never spend more than you can afford to lose on gaming and entertainment.
  • Make sure lottery play does not negatively impact family or work responsibilities.
  • Remember that state lotteries rely on the most frequent consumers for the majority of sales.
  • Look for warning signs of problem gambling like needing to bet more and more money.

Mega Millions can be a fun recreational activity but avoid high stakes gambling. Most players never win more than a few dollars. However, for motivated consumers who play smart with good fortune, Mega Millions represents a life-changing opportunity available in most U.S. states.


In summary, Mega Millions operates as an interstate lottery but takes place independently within each participating state jurisdiction. While jackpots and branding are coordinated nationally, individual state lotteries control ticketing, revenue allocations, and Mega Millions rules within their borders. Players are restricted to buying tickets from their home state. However, contributed revenue goes into a shared jackpot pool between states that enables Mega Millions jackpots to rapidly grow into the hundreds of millions.