December 14, 2013

Mega Millions prize hits $550 million

The lottery’s executive director expresses hope for a billion dollar prize before Christmas.

The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — One of the largest jackpots in U.S. lottery history climbed even higher Saturday after no ticket matched all six numbers to win the top Mega Millions prize.

click image to enlarge

After nobody hit Friday’s $425 million jackpot, officials said Tuesday’s drawing was worth $550 million.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

A Mega Millions lottery ticket is displayed on Friday, in Springfield, Ill. Superstition didn’t deter players hoping that Friday the 13th would bring them good luck, but officials say there is no winning ticket for the $425 million jackpot.

The Associated Press

With the Friday the 13th drawing failing to produce any winner lucky enough to claim the fifth-biggest jackpot ever, officials raised the amount to $550 million for Tuesday’s drawing. That now ranks as the fourth-biggest for all lottery games in U.S. history.

Paula Otto, the Virginia Lottery’s executive director and Mega Millions’ lead director, told The Associated Press early Saturday that she expects the amount to rise even higher before the drawing. It could approach or surpass the largest Mega Millions jackpot ever claimed, $656 million in March 2012. Had someone won Friday, it would have been that game’s second-highest prize.

“We’ve never had a jackpot at this level in December leading into the holidays,” Otto said. “If we keep rolling, we could well be at a billion dollars going into Christmas.”

But each time the lottery fails to produce a jackpot, as it now has 21 straight times on this run, the pot gets even larger. That increases the number of tickets sold while decreasing the chances that nobody will win.

Otto said after $167 million in sales of mostly $1 tickets since the previous drawing on Tuesday, the odds of someone picking all the winning numbers Friday were about 50-50. They’ll almost certainly be even higher next Tuesday and even higher in subsequent drawings should the jackpot still go unclaimed.

A major game revamp to Mega Millions in October – aimed at growing bigger jackpots in a shorter amount of time – decreased the odds of a person winning the top prize to about 1 in 259 million. It was previously about 1 in 176 million, nearly the same odds as winning the Powerball jackpot. Still, the cost for a chance at winning millions with Mega Millions is just $1.

“In some ways we’re in uncharted territory because we have this new matrix,” Otto said. “... How wonderful that the changes seem to be working immediately to get us bigger jackpots.”

It also gave ticket buyers a chance to daydream – at least until the drawing dashed their hopes of striking it rich.

“It would change my life, absolutely,” said Barbara Cooper, who bought two tickets Friday at a New Orleans convenience store. “We still have children in college, so that would help out immensely.”

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