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Lottery Information

Mega Millions

Mega Millions (formerly The Big Game) is a multi-state USD$1 lottery game in the United States. Twelve U.S. states currently participate in the game, which, as of 2006, features jackpots of at least $12 million, payable in 26 annual payments or a reduced lump sum cash payout.


  • On August 31, 1996, Big Game tickets went on sale in six states (Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Virginia).
  • On September 6, 1996, the first drawing was held. Subsequent drawings were held on Friday evenings until February 10, 1998, when a Tuesday evening draw was added.
  • On January 13, 1999, jackpot winners had the option to receive their payment in a lump sum format for the first time.
  • On May 26, 1999, New Jersey joins the Big Game.
  • On May 15, 2002, New York and Ohio join the Big Game, and the name of the game changes to Mega Millions. In addition, the "Big Money Ball" changes its name to the "Mega Ball." The first Mega Millions drawing is held on May 17, 2002.
  • On September 4, 2002, Washington joins Mega Millions.
  • On December 3, 2003, Texas joins Mega Millions.
  • On June 22, 2005, California joins Mega Millions.

Playing the game

As of 2006, to play the game, a player pays one dollar and picks five numbers from 1 to 56 and one additional number from 1 to 46 (the Mega Ball number).

However, earlier incarnations of the Big Game and Mega Millions have had different structures, as illustrated in the following chart:

The Big Game
Date Pick Out of Big Money Ball
Match Out of
September 9, 1996 5 50 1 25
January 13, 1999 5 50 1 36
Mega Millions
Date Pick Out of Mega Ball
Match Out of
May 15, 2002 5 52 1 36
June 22, 2005 5 56 1 46

Tickets must be purchased 15 minutes prior the draw (usually 11PM Eastern time), accounting for local time zone differences.

Laws and regulations vary slightly and are generally governed by the applicable laws in the state where the ticket is sold. Mega Millions winnings are generally exempt from state income tax in California and New Jersey; Texas and Washington have no state income tax.

As of 2006, a player wins a prize according to the following chart:

Matches Payout Odds of winning
all 5 numbers and Mega Ball Jackpot 1: 175,711,536
all 5 numbers but no Mega Ball $250,000 1: 3,904,701
4 numbers and Mega Ball $10,000 1: 689,065
4 numbers but no Mega Ball $150 1: 15,313
3 numbers and Mega Ball $150 1: 13,781
2 numbers and Mega Ball $10 1: 844
3 numbers but no Mega Ball $7 1: 306
1 number and Mega Ball $3 1: 141
Mega Ball only $2 1: 75
Odds of winning any prize 1: 40

Unlike its main rival Powerball, an optional multiplier feature for non-jackpot winnings is only available in one state (Texas).

The draw

Drawings are usually held at WSB-TV in Atlanta by the Georgia Lottery at 11PM Eastern time on Tuesdays and Fridays. Usually, the announcer is WSB's chief weather forecaster, Glenn Burns. However, drawings may sometimes be held elsewhere:

  • On February 20 and July 2, 2004, when the jackpot reached near-record levels, the draws were held in Times Square with New York Lottery draw host Yolanda Vega.
  • On June 24, 2005, to commemorate California joining Mega Millions, the drawing was held in Hollywood, California with Carrie Underwood assisting Glenn Burns for the draw.

Record jackpots

A May, 2000 Big Game jackpot of $363 million, split between two winners, set the record for the largest jackpot ever won in North America at the time. The largest Mega Millions jackpot to date is the $315 million jackpot won by a single person on November 15, 2005.


  1. ^ Payouts are uniform in all Mega Millions states, except in California, where all prizes but the jackpot are pari-mutuel, meaning payouts are based on sales and the number of winners. All other Mega Millions states set the 2nd through 9th prizes at pre-determined amounts.
  2. ^ If more than one person wins the jackpot, the prize is equally divided among the winning tickets. Winners have between 180 days or 1 year to collect the jackpot, depending upon the applicable laws in the state where the winning ticket was sold. Jackpots are typically paid out in an annuity. Winners have the option to collect the jackpot a single lump sum payment. The lump sum payment is typically approximately 40%-60% of the annuity value. The minimum jackpot prize is US$12 million, disbursed in annual payments over 26 years, or a cash payout.