Dec 17, 2013, 12:08 pm
Mega Millions buying frenzy sends jackpot to brink of world record
Includes video report
Updated at 1:03 pm with Maryland sales stats
By Todd Northrop
Certainly the state lotteries expected the multi-state Mega Millions October rules changes to increase jackpots, but it's fair to say the first jackpot run under the new rules exceeded their wildest expectations.
When Mega Millions changed its number matrix and prize structure in October, Texas Lottery executive director Gary Grief said, "We think that players will respond favorably to the new Mega Millions changes and expect even greater sales for the game." (See Tickets for updated Mega Millions game on sale Saturday, Lottery Post, October 18, 2013.)
What an understatement!
The official jackpot estimate for tonight's Mega Millions drawing has been raised for the second time in two days, due to heavy demand for the mind-blowing jackpot.
As of Tuesday morning, the estimated annuity jackpot for the Tuesday, December 17, 2013, Mega Millions jackpot is $636 million, with a lump-sum cash value of $341.2 million.
The increase propells tonight's jackpot total to the second-highest lottery jackpot in world history, and only $20 million shy of the all-time record $656 million jackpot, set in March of 2012 by the Mega Millions game.
But what if nobody wins the jackpot tonight?
Lottery officials have estimated that the starting jackpot estimate would be $950 million, with a cash option of $509.6 million.
Translation: We will see the world's first $1 billion lottery jackpot.
According to the Maryland Lottery, Mega Millions tickets in Maryland alone are being sold today at the rate of 101 tickets per second — 6,041 per minute. The state is estimating that Maryland Lottery retailers will go through approximately 2016 rolls of paper for this particular drawing. At 4,000 tickets per roll, that's a lot of tickets.
The rush of people trying to check their numbers on the Internet tonight will likely have most Web sites swamped. Players are encouraged to check their numbers at USA Mega (www.usamega.com), which tends to survive incredible traffic volumes better than most state lottery Web sites.
"Players checking online should hang in there and refresh their Web browser every so often until they get through to the site," said Todd Northrop, founder of Lottery Post and USA Mega. "The rush of traffic happens right at 11:00 Eastern Time, so waiting a half hour or so before checking the numbers will probably be easiest."
In the meantime, lottery players dreaming about what $636 million means to them after taxes have been withheld can check USA Mega's Jackpot Analysis page, which provides the information for each individual state.
VIDEO: Northrop featured on CNN's New Day program
Lottery Post founder Todd Northrop was featured on CNN's early morning New Day program in a segment discussing the Tuesday Mega Millions drawing.
Top 25 United States lottery jackpots of all time
Tuesday's Mega Millions jackpot currently stands as the 2nd-largest lottery jackpot of all time in the United States. That position may rise before the drawing, as lotteries are typically conservative in their initial estimates, and brisk sales may push the jackpot estimate higher by draw time.
For those keeping score, the number of jackpots in the top 25, by lottery game, are:
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 25 cash value jackpots
Since many lottery winners collect their winnings in cash, the lump-sum payout is an important measure of what a winning ticket could be worth.
Looking at the cash value, the upcoming Mega Millions jackpot ranks as the 4th-largest cash value in U.S. history.
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