Mega Millions is one of the biggest multi-state lottery games in the United States. It is operated by state lotteries under a consortium known as the Mega Millions Consortium. The game was created in 1996 as The Big Game and relaunched as Mega Millions in 2002. It is currently offered in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
How Mega Millions is managed
The Mega Millions Consortium consists of state lottery organizations that have agreed to offer the game in their jurisdictions. The consortium coordinates and manages the game at the national level, including establishing game rules, conducting draws, producing winning number announcements, and handling publicity.
Each participating lottery is responsible for selling Mega Millions tickets and paying out prizes to winners in its jurisdiction. The lotteries also contribute to the game’s prize pools. For each $1 Mega Millions ticket sold, 50 cents goes to the jackpot and prize pool. The other 50 cents is kept as income for the lottery jurisdiction.
The Mega Millions Consortium members
The following state lotteries are members of the Mega Millions Consortium as of October 2022:
|District of Columbia
|U.S. Virgin Islands
How Mega Millions drawings are conducted
Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday at 11 pm ET in Atlanta, Georgia. The drawings are conducted and overseen by the Mega Millions Consortium and observed by auditors from an external accounting firm.
Here is the process for Mega Millions drawings:
1. Lottery ball machines are inspected and tested
Before each drawing, the lottery ball machines used to select the winning numbers are inspected by lottery officials and independent auditors. The machines are also tested with test drawings to ensure they are working properly.
2. The drawing room is secured
The room where the drawing takes place is locked and secured. Only authorized lottery officials and auditors are allowed entry. Security cameras monitor the room.
3. Lottery balls are loaded into the machines
There are two drawing machines – one for the white balls and one for the Mega Ball. The appropriate number of balls are loaded into each machine according to game rules. For Mega Millions, 5 white balls numbered 1-70 are loaded into one machine and 1 Mega Ball numbered 1-25 is loaded into the other.
4. The drawings are conducted
During the live broadcasts, lottery officials activate the drawing machines to randomly select 5 white balls and the 1 Mega Ball that make up the winning numbers. The balls are mixed and blown around inside air-mixing chambers before being drawn through exit tubes.
5. The results are announced and verified
The drawn winning numbers are announced and displayed to the viewing audiences. The on-site auditors then verify that the numbers match the balls drawn from the machines.
6. The results are made official
Once verified, the Mega Millions drawing results become official. The consortium then issues the official game results to all participating state lotteries. Lotteries can pay winners once the results are certified.
Notable Mega Millions jackpots
Since launching in 1996, Mega Millions has awarded several massive jackpots over $500 million, including:
|October 23, 2018
|January 22, 2021
|March 30, 2012
|Illinois, Kansas, Maryland
|December 17, 2013
|July 24, 2018
|July 8, 2016
|March 30, 2018
|June 7, 2019
|January 5, 2018
|January 1, 2019
The current record Mega Millions jackpot of $1.537 billion was won on October 23, 2018 by a single ticket in South Carolina. It remains the largest lottery prize ever awarded to a single ticket.
Biggest Mega Millions winners
Here are some of the biggest Mega Millions jackpot winners to date:
The South Carolina winner – $1.537 billion (2018)
In October 2018, a lone player in South Carolina bought the winning Mega Millions ticket that matched all 6 numbers to win the record $1.537 billion jackpot. The winner could choose between an immediate $878 million cash payout or receive the full amount in annual installments over 30 years. They chose the cash option. South Carolina allows lottery winners to remain anonymous, so the winner’s identity was never revealed to the public.
The Michigan couple – $1.05 billion (2021)
A couple from the Detroit suburb of Oakland County won the second largest Mega Millions prize of $1.05 billion in January 2021. The lucky winners were able to remain anonymous under Michigan law after coming forward to claim their prize. They chose the lump sum cash option of over $776 million.
The Maryland “Three Amigos” – $218.6 million (2012)
In March 2012, three public school workers from Maryland calling themselves the “Three Amigos” shared a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot. Two of the friends worked in the school cafeteria and the other was a school administrator. Each of their shares was $35 million after taxes.
The Indiana couple – $536 million (2016)
An Indiana couple in their 40s came forward in 2016 to claim a $536 million Mega Millions prize. They opted for the $378 million lump sum payment after taxes. With their winnings, the couple reportedly planned to purchase a new home and car.
Odds of winning Mega Millions
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are incredibly steep at 1 in 302.6 million. This means you have a 0.000000329% chance of matching all 6 numbers. Here are the odds for other prize tiers:
|5 white balls + Mega Ball (Jackpot)
|1 in 302,575,350
|5 white balls
|1 in 12,607,306
|4 white balls + Mega Ball
|1 in 931,001
|4 white balls
|1 in 38,792
|3 white balls + Mega Ball
|1 in 14,547
|3 white balls
|1 in 606
|2 white balls + Mega Ball
|1 in 693
|1 white ball + Mega Ball
|1 in 89
|0 white balls + Mega Ball
|1 in 37
As you can see, your overall chances are very low but your odds improve significantly for lower prize tiers.
How to play Mega Millions
Playing Mega Millions is easy. Follow these steps when you buy your ticket:
1. Pick 5 numbers from 1-70
You can choose your own numbers or use quick pick to get randomly generated numbers.
2. Pick 1 Mega Ball number from 1-25
This is the Mega Millions number needed to win the jackpot. You can also quick pick this number.
3. Buy a ticket
Mega Millions tickets cost $2 per play. You can buy them at any authorized lottery retailer in participating states. Many lotteries also offer ticket subscription services.
4. Check the results
Tune in to the Mega Millions drawing on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 pm ET to see if your numbers match. You can also check online after the drawing.
5. Win prizes
Match the Mega Ball plus at least 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 main numbers to win prizes, with the jackpot for matching all 6. Mega Millions has nine prize tiers in total.
Strategies for winning Mega Millions
While there is no foolproof strategy to win the Mega Millions jackpot due to the random nature of the draw, some people use certain tactics to try to improve their odds:
Pick uncommon numbers
Some players avoid quick pick and instead choose a mix of low, high, and uncommon numbers to decrease the chance of sharing the jackpot.
Use key dates
Important dates like birthdays and anniversaries are popular picks. But this increases the chance of splitting a prize.
Buy multiple tickets
You can multiply your odds by purchasing more tickets. But even 10 lines per draw might only win a lower tier prize.
Join a pool
Pooling money with others means you can afford more tickets and hedge your bets across more number combinations.
Use a lottery wheeling system
This involves buying a large batch of tickets covering all possible number permutations to maximize your prize chances.
Is Mega Millions a scam?
Mega Millions is definitely not a scam. The game is run by legitimate state lottery organizations under tight security and regulation. The draws are conducted with rigorous procedures and the game’s integrity is highly monitored. Millions of people have fairly won life-changing prizes over the years by playing Mega Millions. Like any lottery, it simply offers an opportunity to legally win big with a small wager, but the odds of hitting the jackpot are admittedly very low. As long as you only spend what you can afford on occasional entertainment and enjoy playing responsibly, Mega Millions can be a fun product.
How Mega Millions allocates ticket sales
For each $2 Mega Millions ticket sold:
- 50 cents (25%) goes to the jackpot prize pool
- 50 cents (25%) remains with the state lottery jurisdiction as income
- 24.25 cents (12.125%) funds the lower tier cash prizes
- 13.05 cents (6.525%) is withheld for lump sum jackpot payments
- 12.20 cents (6.1%) goes to retailer commissions
- 10.15 cents (5.075%) pays for lottery operating expenses
- 8.55 cents (4.275%) is allocated to marketing
- 1.30 cents (0.65%) funds agent incentives
Approximately half of all revenue stays with the lottery, around a quarter goes to prizes, and the rest covers operating costs. Unclaimed prizes are returned to the prize pools.
Mega Millions is a hugely popular multi-state lottery game that has awarded some of the biggest jackpots in history. While winning is a long shot, many players have taken home life-changing windfalls over the years. The lottery is operated by the Mega Millions Consortium – a group of participating state lotteries. They conduct the draws and manage the game according to strict procedures and oversight. Lotteries sell the $2 tickets and pay out prizes to winners in their jurisdictions. A portion of sales goes to the growing jackpots that can reach staggering amounts. While there’s no perfect strategy, lottery fans continue to dream of joining the Mega Millions millionaire’s club. Responsible play is advised, but for a small wager, the excitement of playing a drawing that could make you instantly rich keeps people coming back.