The Slatest

Sales of Lottery Tickets Soar as Mega Millions Jackpot Surges to Record $1.6 Billion

A woman shows her Mega Millions tickets in Torrance, California on October 19, 2018.
A woman shows her Mega Millions tickets in Torrance, California on October 19, 2018.
MARK RALSTON/Getty Images

It seems everyone wants a piece of the action after the Mega Millions jackpot surged to a record-breaking $1.6 billion when no one hit all winning numbers in Friday night’s drawing. Sales of tickets are soaring, increasing the changes that at least one person will pick all six winning numbers by the time Tuesday’s drawing comes about. If that happens it would end the streak of 25 rollovers and mark the biggest jackpot ever, surpassing the $1.586 billion Powerball prize in January 2016.

“Mega Millions has already entered historic territory, but it’s truly astounding to think that now the jackpot has reached an all-time world record,” Gordon Medenica, lead director of the Mega Millions Group and director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming, said in a statement. “It’s hard to overstate how exciting this is—but now it’s really getting fun.”

By the time Tuesday rolls around, it is expected that 75 percent of the 302 million possible combinations will have been chosen, an increase from 59.1 percent on Friday, according to a spokeswoman for Maryland Lottery and Gaming. If one person does win Tuesday and the winner chooses to get paid in one lump sum, he or she would suddenly be about $905 million richer. And while it’s unlikely, it is possible that no one will win on Tuesday, meaning the jackpot could hit and even higher record. According to reports, it seems many new players have caught lottery fever, despite the minuscule odds of winning, which are around one in 302 million.

If you’ve been noticing lots of large Mega Millions jackpots in recent months, it’s not your imagination. That trend is the result of a change in rules that took place last year. The Washington Post explains:

The officials had been worried that the relatively smaller but more frequent prizes — a “paltry” $100 million, for instance — would result in “jackpot fatigue,” Medenica previously told The Post.

Now, the Mega Millions jackpots grow and grow, creating huge prizes with infrequent payouts. The other significant change that helped fuel the jackpot growth was the increase in the Mega Millions ticket price, which doubled to $2.

Here’s how Mega Millions used to work: Players picked five numbers from 1 to 75 and a Mega number from 1 to 15. The odds of winning the top prize were 1 in 258,890,850.

Since Mega Millions modified the formula, players now pick five numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega number of 1 to 25. The odds of winning the jackpot are now 1 in 302,575,350.

The modifications had the intended effect. According to the official list of largest Mega Millions jackpots, three of the six top jackpot amounts have been awarded since the rules were changed last year.

So what should you do if you win? Lots of people have suggestions.