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Who is eligible for the Mega Millions jackpot?

The Mega Millions lottery is a popular multi-state lottery game in the United States. It is played in 45 states, as well as Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Mega Millions game holds the record for the largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history, with a $1.537 billion jackpot won in October 2018. With jackpots frequently in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s no wonder that so many people fantasize about winning the Mega Millions jackpot. But who is actually eligible to win the top prize? There are a few requirements you must meet in order to potentially claim a Mega Millions jackpot.

Basic eligibility requirements

At a minimum, you must meet the following criteria to play Mega Millions and be eligible to win prizes:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must purchase a ticket in a participating Mega Millions state
  • You must match all five white balls AND the gold Mega Ball to win the jackpot

The current Mega Millions states include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, 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, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands also participate. So to play Mega Millions and have a chance at winning the jackpot, you must be 18+, purchase a ticket in one of these participating areas, and match all six numbers on your ticket.

Can non-citizens or non-residents win?

Yes, non-U.S. citizens and non-residents can absolutely win the Mega Millions jackpot if they meet the eligibility requirements. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen or resident to purchase a ticket and win prizes. The lottery is open to anyone who is 18 or older who purchases a ticket within the participating Mega Millions areas. Some key things to know:

  • You can be a citizen of any country to play Mega Millions
  • You can live anywhere in the world and be eligible to win prizes
  • Tickets must be purchased from authorized retailers within participating U.S. jurisdictions
  • Winners will be subject to U.S. tax laws

So if you are visiting the U.S. and buy a ticket in a participating Mega Millions state, you could win the jackpot as a tourist or non-resident. Players from all over the world have won lottery prizes in the U.S. before. But any non-resident winners will be subject to a minimum 24% federal withholding tax and may owe additional state taxes depending on where the ticket was purchased.

Can groups, trusts, or organizations win?

Yes, it is possible for groups, trusts, organizations, or other types of entities to claim a Mega Millions jackpot prize. Here are the key things to know:

  • The lottery ticket must be purchased in the name of a single individual or legal entity
  • If a group, trust, or organization wins, they will need to provide documentation establishing the entity and proof of ownership
  • Each member of a group can be listed as an individual payee on the prize claim form
  • Winnings will be distributed according to ownership percentages documented in a formal agreement
  • Taxes and withholdings may vary for different types of entities or groups

So it is certainly possible for a group, trust, corporation, or other entity to claim a jackpot prize. The lottery will just need to verify documentation and legal formation of the organization. Prizes will then be paid out according to the established agreement.

Can lottery winners remain anonymous?

Whether lottery winners can remain anonymous varies by state. Some states explicitly allow winners to remain anonymous and keep their identities private. Other states require the names and likenesses of jackpot winners to be made public. Here is a table summarizing the anonymity rules in various Mega Millions jurisdictions:

States Allowing Anonymity States Requiring Public Identification
Delaware Arizona
Georgia Arkansas
Kansas California
Maryland Colorado
New Jersey Connecticut
North Dakota D.C.
Ohio Delaware
South Carolina Florida

As shown, only 8 of the 45 Mega Millions states allow jackpot winners to remain completely anonymous. In the others, your name and potentially your photo will be made public. However, even in states requiring publicity, you may be able to claim prizes through a trust or entity to try to maintain some privacy. You would need to check with your state lottery office to understand the detailed rules.

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen or resident to claim a prize?

No, you do not need to be a U.S. citizen or resident to claim a Mega Millions jackpot prize. But you will need to provide proof of a Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in order to claim any prize over $600. Here are some key points on claiming prizes as a non-resident:

  • You can get an ITIN by filling out W-7 form with the IRS
  • You’ll need an ITIN to claim prizes over $600 and receive any tax forms from the lottery
  • ID and residency documentation will be required to verify identity
  • Non-resident aliens are subject to 30% tax withholding on winnings
  • To reduce withholding, non-residents can file Form W8-BEN

So while U.S. citizenship is not strictly required, non-residents will need to go through some extra steps to provide taxpayer identification and claim prizes over the reporting thresholds. With the proper documentation, anyone from around the world who legally purchases a ticket can potentially win a Mega Millions jackpot.

Do jackpot winners pay taxes?

Yes, Mega Millions jackpot winners are responsible for paying applicable federal and state taxes on their winnings. Here is an overview of the taxes owed:

  • Federal taxes – Highest marginal rate of 37% applies. 24% mandatory withholding.
  • State taxes – Varies by jurisdiction, up to 8% additional in some states.
  • Non-resident taxes – Winners from other countries subject to 30% withholding.
  • Prizes paid as annuity – Taxes applied annually to each payment.
  • After-tax value reduced by 1/3rd or more for lump sum.

When the cash value option is chosen, winners have enough withheld to cover the flat 24% federal tax, but will likely owe more at tax time. State, local, and non-resident taxes can also apply. Annuity payments build in this tax liability each year. Consultation with tax professionals is highly recommended for any jackpot winners to understand their full tax obligations.

Are jackpot winners publicly announced?

Mega Millions winners are announced publicly in most participating states. However, a minority of states do allow winners to remain anonymous:

States Allowing Anonymity States Requiring Public Identification
Delaware Arizona
Georgia Arkansas
Kansas California
Maryland Colorado
New Jersey Connecticut
North Dakota D.C.
Ohio Florida
South Carolina And more

Even in states where publicity is required, winners may be able to claim through a trust or entity to maintain some privacy. Check with your state lottery office to understand their publicity practices and if anonymity is an option for winners.

Can lottery winners have taxes withheld from prize payments?

Yes, provisions exist for having taxes withheld from both lump sum and annuity prize payments for Mega Millions winners:

  • Lump sum – 24% federal taxes are mandatorily withheld.
  • Annuity – Can elect to have taxes withheld from each payment.
  • State taxes – Optional state tax withholding is available in some jurisdictions.
  • Must complete W-2G and withholding forms at time of claim.
  • Withholdings can cover liability but winners still need to file returns.

Having taxes withheld directly from lottery payments simplifies the taxation process for winners. But winners are responsible for any additional taxes owed when they file returns, as withholding is just an estimate. Consulting a tax professional is highly recommended to put in place the optimal withholding strategy.

How quickly must winning tickets be redeemed?

Mega Millions winning tickets must be redeemed within a specified timeframe which varies by jurisdiction:

Mega Millions States Redemption Deadline
California, Louisiana, Virginia 1 year from drawing date
Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington 1 year from drawing date for annuity option only
Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming 90 or 180 days from drawing date

Winning tickets expire after the designated redemption period in each state. Unclaimed prizes are returned to the lottery to be used in future games or special promotions. To receive Mega Millions jackpot winnings, players must present validated winning tickets within the applicable timeframe.

Can you win the jackpot more than once?

Yes, players can absolutely win the Mega Millions jackpot more than one time. In fact, there are numerous examples of players winning big Mega Millions prizes on multiple occasions:

  • James Whitaker – Won $61 million in 1998 and $65.4 million in 2001.
  • Bunky Bartlett – Won $61 million in 2007 and $33 million in 2017.
  • Harold and Helen Lerner – Won $1 million in 1995 and $258 million in 2005.
  • Richard Lustig – Won 7 lottery game grand prizes including Mega Millions.

The odds of winning might be incredibly long, but each ticket purchased is a completely independent event. So hitting the jackpot more than once is absolutely possible if you continue to play consistently. The key factors are the amount spent on tickets and the sheer luck of having the winning numbers selected.

Can you improve your chances of winning?

There is no proven strategy to substantially improve your odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot. The baseline odds are about 1 in 302 million. However, there are some tips that may marginally improve your chances:

  • Buy more tickets to increase total number combinations covered
  • Join or organize lottery pools to afford more tickets
  • Use computer auto-pick rather than manually picking numbers
  • Select annuity payment to invest and earn extra income
  • Consistently play twice a week to increase win probability

The single biggest factor is simply buying more tickets. But joining pools, using quick picks, and consistently playing can help optimize your chances. There are no shortcuts to radically improve the odds, but diligently playing in a systematic way can help. The element of sheer luck is still paramount.


In summary, eligibility to win the Mega Millions jackpot is open to almost anyone who can legally purchase a ticket. You need to be 18+, buy an official ticket in a participating state, and match all six numbers. U.S. citizenship is not required and groups/trusts can potentially claim prizes. Winners are subject to taxes but can remain anonymous in some states. While the odds are incredibly long, consistent prudent play may marginally improve your chances. The lottery offers the potential for life-changing winnings to players everywhere who are fortunate enough to beat the odds.