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$356 MILLION: Mega Millions lottery jackpot nears record

Mar 24, 2012, 8:34 am

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Mega Millions

Biggest cash value jackpot in history

By Todd Northrop

After rolling over for the 17th consecutive time last night, the Mega Millions jackpot has been raised to a jaw-dropping $356 million for the Tuesday, March 27, drawing.

Tuesday's Grand Prize is the 5th-largest lottery jackpot of all time, but the drawing's most impressive distinction is it's cash value of $255.1 million.  That's the lump-sum cash amount the winning ticket will payout if the winner chooses to receive the prize all at once.  And that number is now the largest cash payout ever offered — a full $15 million more than the previous record holder (a $240 million Mega Millions payout in January, 2011, for a $380 milllion annuity jackpot).

The mammoth prize to be offered Tuesday is the result of 17 draws without a winner. The run-up started as a $12 million prize on Jan. 27.

The winning numbers for Friday, March 23, 2012 were 6, 17, 19, 20, and 21, with Mega Ball number 20. The Megaplier number was 4.

Even though nobody won the jackpot Tuesday, 39 lucky players matched the first 5 numbers for a $250,000 prize: 1 from Arkansas, 7 from California, 1 from Georgia, 1 from Idaho, 5 from Illinois, 2 from Louisiana, 2 from Maryland, 1 from Massachusetts, 1 from Missouri, 2 from New Hampshire, 3 from New Jersey, 6 from New York, 1 from Oklahoma, 1 from Pennsylvania, 1 from South Dakota, 1 from Texas, 1 from Washington, and 2 from Wisconsin.

The 7 California winners will each be awarded prizes of $259,268, because California awards all prizes in a pari-mutuel formula, which calculates the prize amount based on the number of tickets sold and the number of winners in each prize category. In the last Mega Millions drawing the prize formula resulted in a lower prize than normal, but this drawing the second-prize winners will receive more than the fixed prize offered in all the other states.

This is the second Mega Millions drawing in a row to avoid a jackpot winner despite drawing all "birthday numbers".  Since one of the most popular ways to play the lottery is to pick numbers based on birthdays of family members, lottery drawings containing all low numbers normally produce many winners.

Perhaps one "anomoly" that helped the jackpot to roll over was the fact that the Mega Ball number drawn, 20, was the same as one of the first five numbers.  While that is perfectly acceptible (the Mega Ball is drawn from a different pool of numbers from the first five numbers), casual players are often not aware of that possibility, and avoid picking a Mega Ball number that is the same as one of the first five numbers.  When the jackpot swells, there are an influx of casual players buying tickets.

The winning numbers for Friday's Mega Millions lottery drawing will be published at USA Mega (www.usamega.com) right after the drawing takes place at 11:00 PM Eastern Time.

USA Mega is one of the few lottery Web sites with a robust technology backbone that keeps it running strong, even when massive player traffic melts down other state lottery Web sites.

The site provides lottery players in-depth information about the United States's two biggest multi-state lottery games, Mega Millions and Powerball.

Lottery players who want to see the Friday's Mega Millions after-tax jackpot amount for both the annuity and cash value can visit USA Mega's Jackpot Analysis page, which calculates the tax withholdings for every state that offers Mega Millions.

USA Mega is the originator of the Jackpot Analysis feature.

Top 25 United States lottery jackpots of all time

Tuesday's Mega Millions jackpot currently stands as the 5th-largest lottery jackpot of all time in the United States.  That position may rise before the drawing Tuesday night, as lotteries are typically conservative in their initial estimates, and brisk sales may push the jackpot estimate higher by draw time.

If nobody wins Tuesday, it's anyone's guess how high it will go.

  1. Mega Millions: $390 million, Mar. 6, 2007 - Georgia, New Jersey
  2. Mega Millions: $380 million, Jan. 4, 2011 - Idaho, Washington
  3. Powerball: $365 million, Feb. 18, 2006 - Nebraska
  4. The Big Game: $363 million, May 9, 2000 - Illinois, Michigan
  5. Mega Millions: $356 million, Mar. 27, 2012 (preliminary estimate, not won yet)
  6. Powerball: $340 million, Oct. 19, 2005 - Oregon
  7. Powerball: $336.4 million, Feb. 11, 2012 - Rhode Island
  8. Mega Millions: $336 million, Aug. 28, 2009 - California, New York
  9. The Big Game: $331 million, Apr. 16, 2002 - Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey
  10. Mega Millions: $330 million, Aug. 31, 2007 - Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia
  11. Mega Millions: $319 million, Mar. 25, 2011 - New York
  12. Mega Millions: $315 million, Nov. 15, 2005 - California
  13. Powerball: $314.9 million, Dec. 26, 2002 - West Virgina
  14. Powerball: $314.3 million, Aug. 25, 2007 - Indiana
  15. Powerball: $295.7 million, Jul. 29, 1998 - Indiana
  16. Powerball: $295 million, Aug. 25, 2001 - Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire
  17. Mega Millions: $294 million, Jul. 2, 2004 - Massachusetts
  18. Powerball: $276.3 million, Mar. 15, 2008 - West Virgina
  19. Mega Millions: $275 million, Feb. 22, 2008 - Georgia
  20. Mega Millions: $270 million, Feb. 28, 2006 - Ohio
  21. Mega Millions: $266 million, May 4, 2010 - California
  22. Mega Millions: $265 million, Apr. 18, 2006 - Ohio
  23. Powerball: $261.6 million, Jun. 2, 2010 - Ohio
  24. Powerball: $261.3 million, Jul. 9, 2003 - Missouri, Pennsylvania
  25. Powerball: $259.9 million, Aug. 19, 2009 - South Carolina

For those keeping score, the number of jackpots in the top 25, by lottery game, are:

  • Mega Millions: 12
  • Powerball: 11
  • The Big Game: 2

The Big Game is the original name of Mega Millions, from the game's first drawing on Sep. 6, 1996 through May 14, 2002.  The name was changed to Mega Millions starting with the May 17, 2002 drawing.

Top 20 cash value jackpots

Since many lottery winners collect their winnings in cash, the lump-sum payout is an important measure of what a ticket could be worth.

The list of top cash value jackpots has a new Number 1 entry — the Mega Millions cash jackpot for Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

  1. Mega Millions: $255.1 million cash, Mar. 27, 2012 ($356 million annuity) - preliminary estimate, not won yet
  2. Mega Millions: $240 million cash, Jan. 4, 2011 ($380 million annuity) - Idaho, Washington
  3. Mega Millions: $233.1 million cash, Mar. 6, 2007 ($390 million annuity) - Georgia, New Jersey
  4. Mega Millions: $214 million cash, Aug. 28, 2009 ($336 million annuity) - California, New York
  5. Powerball: $210 million cash, Feb. 11, 2012 ($336.4 million annuity) - Rhode Island
  6. Mega Millions: $202.9 million cash, Mar. 25, 2011 ($319 million annuity) - New York
  7. Mega Millions: $194.4. million cash, Aug. 31, 2007 ($330 million annuity) - Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia
  8. Mega Millions: $185 million cash, Nov. 15, 2005 ($315 million annuity) - California
  9. The Big Game: $180 million cash, May 9, 2000 ($363 million annuity) - Illinois, Michigan
  10. Powerball: $177.3 million cash, Feb. 18, 2006 ($365 million annuity) - Nebraska
  11. Mega Millions: $168 million cash, July 2, 2004 ($294 million annuity) - Massachusetts
  12. Mega Millions: $167.7 million cash, Feb. 22, 2008 ($275 million annuity) - Georgia
  13. Powerball: $166 million cash, Aug. 25, 2001 ($295 million annuity) - Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire
  14. Mega Millions: $165.2 million cash, May 4, 2010 ($266 million annuity) - California
  15. Powerball: $164.4 million cash, won Oct. 19, 2005 ($340 million annuity) - Oregon
  16. Mega Millions: $164 million cash, Feb. 28, 2006 ($270 million annuity) - Ohio
  17. Powerball: $161.5 million cash, July 29, 1998 ($295.7 million annuity) - Indiana
  18. Mega Millions: $156.1 million cash, Sept. 16, 2005 ($258 million annuity) - New Jersey
  19. Mega Millions: $153.3 million cash, Dec. 27, 2011 ($208 million annuity) - New York
  20. Powerball: $151.7 million cash, Nov. 2, 2011 ($254.2 million annuity) - Connecticut

The number of cash value jackpots in the top 20, by lottery game, are:

  • Mega Millions: 13
  • Powerball: 6
  • The Big Game: 1

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