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Is the Mega Million and the Powerball the same?

The Mega Millions and Powerball are two of the biggest lottery games in the United States. Both games are offered in multiple states and have produced some of the largest lottery jackpots in history. With their similarities in format, operation, and jackpot sizes, it’s common for lottery players to wonder – are Mega Millions and Powerball the same game? The short answer is no, they are different lottery games operated by different organizations. However, there are many similarities between the two games that can make them appear very alike at first glance.

Game Administration

The Mega Millions and Powerball games are administered by different organizations. Mega Millions is coordinated by state lotteries across the country and the Multi-State Lottery Association. Powerball is coordinated by the Multi-State Lottery Association but operates as a separate game. The two organizations work together to coordinate lottery games across participating U.S. states, but Mega Millions and Powerball have separate administrative structures.

Mega Millions Administration

Mega Millions is offered in 45 states plus Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The game is coordinated by the Multi-State Lottery Association, an organization formed in 1987 to facilitate collaboration between U.S. lotteries. Within the MUSL, Mega Millions operations are overseen by a consortium of 11 participating lotteries. These are commonly referred to as the Mega Millions Consortium. The consortium directs Mega Millions operations, including rules, budgeting, marketing, and drawings.

Powerball Administration

Powerball is offered in 45 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While Powerball is coordinated overall by the MUSL like Mega Millions, Powerball has its own separate central operating structure. Powerball operations are directed by the Powerball Product Group, made up of one representative from each participating lottery. The Product Group makes decisions about game features, investments, rules, marketing, and more.

So in summary, Mega Millions has its own consortium for oversight while Powerball utilizes the centralized Product Group. Both coordinate with the MUSL but operate as distinct administrative entities.

Prize Payouts and Odds

Despite being run separately, the odds and prize payout structures for Mega Millions and Powerball are quite similar. Both games offer large jackpots that roll over when there is no grand prize winner, leading to enormous jackpots. The games also have relatively long odds of winning.

Mega Millions Prizes and Odds

Mega Millions has nine prize tiers:

Prize Tier Odds of Winning (1 in…) Prize Amount
Match 5 white balls + Mega Ball 302,575,350 Grand prize jackpot
Match 5 white balls 12,607,306 $1,000,000
Match 4 white balls + Mega Ball 931,001 $10,000
Match 4 white balls 36,525 $500
Match 3 white balls + Mega Ball 14,494 $200
Match 3 white balls 606 $10
Match 2 white balls + Mega Ball 693 $10
Match 1 white ball + Mega Ball 89 $4
Match Mega Ball 49 $2

As you can see, matching all 5 main numbers and the Mega Ball jackpot has odds of 1 in over 300 million. This makes the jackpot very difficult to win, allowing prizes to grow into the hundreds of millions before someone hits the top prize. Smaller prizes have better but still relatively long odds.

Powerball Prizes and Odds

Powerball also has nine prize levels:

Prize Tier Odds of Winning (1 in…) Prize Amount
Match 5 white balls + Powerball 292,201,338 Grand prize jackpot
Match 5 white balls 11,688,053 $1,000,000
Match 4 white balls + Powerball 913,129 $50,000
Match 4 white balls 36,525 $100
Match 3 white balls + Powerball 14,494 $100
Match 3 white balls 580 $7
Match 2 white balls + Powerball 701 $7
Match 1 white ball + Powerball 91 $4
Match Powerball 38 $4

The odds and prize structures align very closely with Mega Millions. The jackpots have similar long odds at over 292 million to 1, allowing jackpots to grow very large. Secondary prizes are also closely matched in how they are awarded based on number of balls matched.

So in summary, both games offer infrequent enormous jackpots and smaller prizes of $7 to $50,000 for matching some numbers. The payouts and hit frequencies are structured equivalently.

How to Play and Game Format

Both Mega Millions and Powerball follow a similar format using two pools of numbered balls for the drawings.

How to Play Mega Millions

To play Mega Millions, players:

  • Pick 5 numbers from 1 to 70 (the “white balls”)
  • Pick 1 number from 1 to 25 (the gold “Mega Ball”)
  • Tickets cost $2 per play
  • To win the jackpot, match all 5 white balls and the Mega Ball
  • Lesser prizes are won for matching some numbers

Drawings are held Tuesdays and Fridays at 11pm ET. Sales cut off 1 to 2 hours before the drawings depending on the participating state.

How to Play Powerball

Powerball gameplay is very similar:

  • Pick 5 numbers from 1 to 69 (the “white balls”)
  • Pick 1 number from 1 to 26 (the red “Powerball”)
  • Tickets also cost $2 per play
  • Match all 5 plus the Powerball to win the jackpot
  • Smaller prizes for fewer matched numbers

Powerball drawings are held Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10:59pm ET, with sales ending 1 to 2 hours prior.

As you can see, the format of picking 5 main numbers and a separate Powerball/Mega Ball number is identical. Both use similar numbered pools and the same $2 ticket price. The nightly drawings are also held around the same timeframes during the week.

Changes to Rules and Features Over Time

While the core gameplay remains the same today, some rules and features have changed for Mega Millions and Powerball over the years. The evolution of both games has followed a similar trajectory.

Mega Millions Format Changes

Key format changes for Mega Millions include:

  • Started in 1996 as The Big Game with 6/49 matrix
  • Changed to 5/52 matrix with Mega Ball in 2002
  • Mega Millions name adopted in 2002
  • Mega Ball pool increased from 1-25 to 1-36 in 2011
  • Matrix changed to 5/75 + 1/15 in 2013
  • Current matrix of 5/70 + 1/25 began in 2017

Rules like the Just the Jackpot option were also added over time. So while the core game is the same, the specific numbers pools and options have been adjusted.

Powerball Format Changes

For Powerball, key format evolutions include:

  • Game started in 1992 with 5/45 matrix
  • Power Play option added in 2001
  • Matrix changed to 5/59 in 2009
  • Currently 5/69 matrix began in 2015
  • Power Play expanded from cap of 5x to 10x in 2021

Powerball has followed a similar pattern of tweaking the main matrix and adding special features like Power Play over time while keeping the essence of the game intact.

So in summary, both lotteries have evolved in similar ways since their inceptions while retaining their core play style and prize structure. This has kept the games fairly aligned over decades.

Differences Between the Games

While Mega Millions and Powerball share many traits, there are some differences between the two lottery games:

Matrix Sizes

  • Mega Millions main numbers pool is 1-70
  • Powerball main numbers pool is 1-69

So there is a slight difference in the size of the numbered pools. Mega Millions has a larger main pool by one number.

Mega Ball vs Powerball

  • Mega Millions has a Mega Ball pool of 1-25
  • Powerball has a Powerball pool of 1-26

Again, the Mega Millions Mega Ball pool is one number smaller in range compared to the Powerball pool.

Draw Schedule

  • Mega Millions draws Tuesdays and Fridays
  • Powerball draws Wednesdays and Saturdays

The lottery drawings occur on different nights. Mega Millions holds its draws earlier in the week.

Minor Differences

Some other subtle differences include:

  • Mega Millions has a Just the Jackpot option for an extra $3 per ticket
  • Powerball has a Power Play option to multiply smaller prizes for an extra $1 per ticket
  • The Powerball is red while the Mega Ball is gold
  • Mega Millions uses a money bag symbol while Powerball uses a powerball icon

But despite these small variations, the core games remain quite aligned.

Jackpot Size Comparison

The Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots often gain comparable massive sizes, despite having slightly different odds. Some record jackpots include:

Biggest Mega Millions Jackpots

  • $1.537 billion on October 23, 2018
  • $1.05 billion on January 22, 2021
  • $656 million on March 30, 2012

Biggest Powerball Jackpots

  • $1.586 billion on January 13, 2016
  • $768.4 million on March 27, 2019
  • $758.7 million on August 23, 2017

As you can see, both lotteries have managed to produce jackpots over $1.5 billion. The odds of winning are close enough that huge rolls can happen in either game. In general, the jackpot size at any given time comes down to the number of consecutive rolls since the last winner. But both games routinely see jackpots reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

States That Offer Both Games

Another similarity between Mega Millions and Powerball is that many states offer both lottery games. The only jurisdictions that do not have both are:

  • Mega Millions only: Arizona, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Powerball only: Idaho, Nevada, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Wyoming

So the game availability overlaps heavily, with most areas giving players access to both lotteries. Some notable states that offer both include:

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Illinois
  • Georgia
  • New Jersey

Given the dual availability, many players use the opportunity to buy tickets and chase jackpots for both Mega Millions and Powerball.


In summary:

  • Mega Millions and Powerball are administered separately but use similar prize structures and odds
  • Both games follow the same 5/70+1/26 format and $2 ticket price
  • Some minor differences exist like drawing nights and matrix sizes
  • Jackpots frequently reach equivalent massive amounts
  • Most U.S. states offer both lotteries side-by-side

So while not identical, Mega Millions and Powerball are quite similar in format, prizes, jackpot sizes, and availability. The games offer aligned experiences playing for enormous jackpot prizes. For lottery players, both games provide essentially equivalent opportunities to win huge lottery jackpots. The choice of which game to play comes down mainly to personal preference around playing different nights, numbers pools, or special features like Mega Millions’ Just the Jackpot option. But overall, the core games and chances for huge jackpots are very much the same.