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What if no one wins Mega Millions tonight?

The Mega Millions jackpot for tonight’s drawing on October 15, 2023 has risen to an estimated $494 million. This huge jackpot has captured the attention of lottery players across the country who are eager to have a chance at winning life-changing money. But what happens if no one wins the jackpot in tonight’s drawing?

Why jackpots grow so large

Mega Millions jackpots grow to such enormous sums because the odds of winning are extremely long. The chances of winning the jackpot by matching all 5 white balls plus the gold Mega Ball are about 1 in 302 million. When repeated drawings pass without anyone matching all the numbers drawn, the jackpot keeps growing based on ticket sales and rolls down to the next drawing.

For a sense of just how unlikely it is to win, you are about 3 times more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than to hit the Mega Millions jackpot. With odds like this, it’s no wonder the top prize can go months without being won.

What happens if no one wins

If no ticket matches all 6 numbers in tonight’s drawing, the estimated $494 million jackpot will roll over to the next drawing. Tuesday’s jackpot will then be boosted to an estimated $522 million with a cash value of around $300 million. This rollover process happens every time the top prize is not won.

This means Mega Millions jackpots have the potential to continue growing into staggering sums. The current record Mega Millions jackpot is $1.537 billion, hit in October 2018 when a ticket sold in South Carolina matched the winning numbers after 23 straight rollovers.

Where the money goes

If no one wins the Mega Millions jackpot in a given drawing, the prize money rolls over to increase the jackpot for the next drawing. But where does the actual money come from in the first place?

Mega Millions jackpot prizes are funded by the sales of Mega Millions tickets in participating states. Each Mega Millions ticket costs $2 to play. Approximately 50% of sales is allocated to prize money, of which 75% funds the jackpot. The other 25% goes towards the lower tier Mega Millions prizes.

So as more tickets are sold, more money goes towards the growing Mega Millions jackpot. In drawings when the jackpot is not awarded, that allocated prize money rolls over into the next drawing’s jackpot. This creates a snowball effect as a run of drawings with no jackpot winner sends the top prize higher and higher.

Eventually a winner is likely

While it is certainly possible for a lengthy streak of rollovers to happen, the odds ensure that eventually a jackpot winner will emerge. In the 23 consecutive drawings it took for the $1.537 billion record jackpot to be won, over 50 million winning tickets at other prize levels were sold.

Statistically, the more tickets sold the greater the likelihood that combinations for not just the smaller prizes but also the jackpot will be covered. Given enough drawings, a winner becomes increasingly inevitable.

Jackpot fatigue

One other factor that comes into play the longer a jackpot goes without being won is jackpot fatigue. As Mega Millions jackpots exceed the $400 million mark, sales of tickets tend to slow down. Lottery officials speculate this happens because staggeringly large jackpots receive significant media coverage, making pool play and multiple ticket purchases more appealing.

However, once jackpots pass a perceived threshold of being an almost unimaginable amount of money, fervor starts to taper off. Experts say jackpot fatigue appears to set in around the $600 million mark for Mega Millions.

Record Mega Millions sales

Nonetheless, Mega Millions will keep setting new sales records whenever jackpots grow particularly large. The highest Mega Millions sales for a single drawing happened in July 2022 during the run up to a $1.337 billion jackpot.

For that drawing, more than 128.8 million tickets were sold. Sales reached over $1.35 billion in the 41 drawings it took for a winner to emerge for that record prize. Even if no one wins tonight’s estimated $494 million jackpot, millions of Mega Millions tickets will be sold.

Ways to win without the jackpot

It’s easy to only focus on the headline Mega Millions jackpot, but players have more ways to win smaller prizes. At each Mega Millions drawing, there are 9 ways in total to win a prize:

  • Match 5 white balls + Mega Ball for jackpot
  • Match 5 white balls for $1 million
  • Match 4 white balls + Mega Ball for $10,000
  • Match 4 white balls for $500
  • Match 3 white balls + Mega Ball for $200
  • Match 3 white balls for $10
  • Match 2 white balls + Mega Ball for $10
  • Match 1 white ball + Mega Ball for $4
  • Match Mega Ball for $2

The overall odds of winning any Mega Millions prize are about 1 in 24. This means that even on nights when the jackpot is not awarded, plenty of smaller prizes will be handed out.

Changes after massive jackpots

One way Mega Millions officials try to avoid jackpots from getting too massive is by tweaking the game’s rules and odds. Twice in the game’s history, changes have been made after enormous jackpots were won.

After a $656 million prize in 2012, the field of white balls was increased from 56 to 75. This made the odds of winning the jackpot longer at 1 in over 259 million. Similarly in 2017 after a $536 million jackpot, the game added higher starting jackpots and minimum increases between drawings.

These changes were designed to control jackpot sizes while still generating excitement. Mega Millions organizers want multi-hundred million dollar prizes but not so large as to trigger jackpot fatigue.

Record jackpots bring surges in ticket sales

Even though massive jackpots may start to suppress some sales, the lure of hundred of millions still prompts many players to buy Mega Millions tickets that do not normally play. This was evident when the record $1.537 billion jackpot was hit in 2018.

For that drawing, total tickets sold were over 50% higher than the previous record. Many first time and casual Mega Millions players are compelled to try their luck when they see advertisements about jackpots mushroom to epic proportions.

Mega Millions Sales Increase for Record $1.537 Billion Jackpot

Drawing Date Jackpot Tickets Sold
10/19/2018 $1 billion 36.0 million
10/23/2018 $1.6 billion 37.7 million
10/26/2018 $970 million 41.7 million
10/29/2018 $1.537 billion 62.6 million

While Mega Millions may tweak rules after massive jackpots, there is no danger the game will be altered too radically. Record jackpots bring surges in ticket sales and revenue that benefit the 44 states plus Washington D.C. and the U.S Virgin Islands which offer Mega Millions.

Winners can choose cash or annuity

For those lucky enough to one day hit the Mega Millions jackpot, winners have two options for collecting their full prize amount. They can take payment as an annuity spread out over 30 graduated payments over 29 years, or elect to take the cash value option in one lump sum.

Virtually all jackpot winners opt for cash, which for tonight’s $494 million prize would amount to around $247 million. That’s still an amazing amount of instant money that could let you pursue just about any dream or desire.

Twice weekly drawings

Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday evening at 11 pm Eastern Time. Players can buy Mega Millions tickets up until 10:45 pm on the night of the drawing where the winning numbers will be selected.

To play, tickets must be purchased for $2 each. Players get to pick 5 numbers from 1 to 70 for the white balls, and 1 number from 1 to 25 for the Mega Ball. Tickets can be bought from any authorized lottery retailer in participating states.

Odds compared to other prizes

To highlight just how unlikely it is to hit the Mega Millions jackpot, here is how the odds compare to other prizes:

Mega Millions Jackpot Odds vs Other Prizes

Prize Odds of Winning
Mega Millions Jackpot 1 in 302,575,350
Powerball Jackpot 1 in 292,201,338
NCAA Bracket Perfect 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808
Flip a Coin 10 Times All Heads 1 in 1,024
Odds of Royal Flush in Poker 1 in 649,740

As the table shows, you are significantly more likely to achieve unlikely feats like perfectly predicting the NCAA tournament bracket or flipping a coin to 10 straight heads than you are to hit the Mega Millions jackpot. But that doesn’t stop Americans from dreaming and buying over $2 billion in Mega Millions tickets annually.

Changes made in recent years

Mega Millions has undergone some significant changes in recent years to update the game and create larger, faster growing jackpots.

In October 2017, players were given better overall odds of winning any prize to 1 in 24 from 1 in 42 previously. The starting jackpot and minimum jackpot increases between drawings also doubled from $15 million to $40 million.

These changes came shortly after tweaks in October 2013 that increased the field for the white balls from 52 to 75 while decreasing the Mega Ball picks from 46 to just 15. Overall odds for winning the jackpot worsened to 1 in over 258 million.

Despite the longer odds, both rule changes enabled faster growing jackpots while preserving the Mega Millions tradition of millionaires being made overnight with massive prize checks.

How Mega Millions funding helps communities

While players are attracted to Mega Millions by dreams of huge jackpot winnings, the steady stream of revenue funds important state programs and projects.

Since being founded in 2002, Mega Millions has generated over $23 billion for government programs supporting public schools, infrastructure, senior citizens, environmental conservation and more in participating states.

On average, about 50 cents of every $2 ticket sold goes towards these initiatives. So even when jackpots get diluted by multiple lower tier winners, Mega Millions continues making a valuable positive impact.

Record profits from massive jackpots

Mega Millions profits reach their highest levels when jackpots grow to record breaking amounts. The two largest jackpots in history each exceeded $1.5 billion.

The current Mega Millions record prize of $1.537 billion set in 2018 resulted in enormous profits for MUSL (the consortium that runs the game). An estimated $776 million in profits were generated during the 41 drawings it took for a South Carolina winner to emerge.

Likewise, a $1.050 billion Powerball jackpot in 2016 fueled huge profits for that game’s organizers when a ticket in California matched the winning numbers after 20 rollovers without a jackpot winner.

Winners spread across the country

In the over 20 years since Mega Millions began, jackpot winners have been spread across the country. Big states like California and New York unsurprisingly have had many residents win jackpots.

But there have also been Mega Millions jackpot winners from less populated states you might not expect. These include winners from places like Kansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Maine and South Carolina, home of the record $1.537 billion ticket.

This shows that no matter what state you live in, you have just as much chance of winning Mega Millions as anyone else if you buy a ticket. State population size does not impact your odds.


While the odds seem hopelessly long, Mega Millions has made plenty of millionaires and billionaires since 2002. Even if no one wins the estimated $494 million jackpot up for grabs tonight, the next drawing’s massive prize could produce the game’s next big winner.

With Mega Millions mania sweeping the country, all it takes is one quick pick ticket to write your name into the history books. That kind of life changing jackpot is what motivates millions of people to play Mega Millions even when the odds seem impossible.