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$1.6B Mega Millions prize due to simple math, some surprises

For all the anticipation about whether someone will finally snag the gigantic Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots, the games come down to two things: simple math — and very long odds.

But there are some quirks and surprises about the math equations that likely will soon vault someone into stratospheric wealth after the jackpots grew for months without a winner.

WHAT ARE THE JACKPOTS?

The biggest quirk starts with this fact: The advertised $1.6 billion Mega Millions prize — the world’s largest ever lottery jackpot — and $620 million Powerball prize aren’t quite real. That is, those are the amount you’d be paid if you chose an annuity, doled out over 29 years. Nearly every winner opts for cash, which is the amount of money the lottery folks actually have in the bank ready to pay out to the company that would fund the annuity.

The cash option is still massive, at $904 million for Mega Millions and $354.3 million for Powerball. But those numbers aren’t splayed across billboards and shown in countless mini marts across America.

 

POTENTIAL COMBINATIONS

The dismal odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot — 1 in 302.5 million — means there are 302.5 million potential number combinations, or a little less than one combination for all 328 million people living in the U.S. For last Friday’s drawing, about 59 percent of possible combinations were taken. But by Tuesday night’s drawing, officials estimate that 75 percent will be sold.

That would mean a 25 percent chance of no winner. If that happens, it’s likely even more combinations would be covered before the next drawing three days later. Officials don’t have an estimate on how many tickets would be sold for that potential drawing, and they haven’t said how large the estimated prize would be. Could it reach $2 billion?

The odds of winning Powerball are 1 in 292.2 million.

AS THE GRAND PRIZE INCREASES, SO DO WINNER NUMBERS

The odds of winning don’t change as jackpots get larger, but the chance that more than one winner will share the prize do. When so many people rush to play as a jackpot soars , the chances increase that two or three tickets — of the millions of tickets sold — will match. Of the five largest jackpots awarded in the U.S., three went to multiple winners. The largest single prize went to a 2017 player from Massachusetts who celebrated a $758.7 million Powerball payday.

TWO JACKPOTS, ONE WINNER?

If the odds of winning either Mega Millions or Powerball don’t seem gigantic enough, how about winning them both? Spend $4 on a ticket for each game and it could happen. But the odds aren’t especially favorable, at about 1 in 88 quadrillion (that’s 88,000,000,000,000,000).

LUCKY NUMBERS

For Mega Millions, players choose six numbers: five from a range of white balls, numbered 1 to 70, and one number for the Mega Ball, with a range of 1 to 25. What numbers have come up most? Since 2010, that honor goes to the number 2, with 92 hits, followed by the numbers 20, 11, 31 and 17. The most hit Mega Ball number is 9.

Lottery officials are quick to point out that the number selection is random, so there’s no reason that what hit in the past will be selected again. The game also has changed over the years, so some numbers included weren’t always in the mix.

LUCKY STATES

Not surprisingly, the most Mega Million jackpot winners in the past five years have come from states with the largest populations. New York, with the nation’s fourth-largest population, leads with seven winners. The No. 1 population state of California is second in Mega Millions winners with six, while Illinois is third with four winners.

Still, there are some quirks, as Georgia has the eight-largest population and three winners and Washington state has two winners but only the 13th largest population. Texas has the nation’s second-largest population, yet players have only bought winning Mega Millions tickets in the state twice in the past five years. And let’s hear it for Rhode Island, the smallest population state to have won a Mega Millions jackpot in the past five years.

AMERICA IS NO. 1

For those with an international bent, the current Mega Millions jackpot has surpassed all lottery jackpot records — so it’s not only the largest lottery prize in U.S. history, it’s now the world’s largest.

The annual El Gordo national lottery in Spain advertises a larger total prize pool, but the money is divvied up into many prizes, according to Seth Elkin, a spokesman for the Maryland lottery, which currently takes questions about the Mega Millions drawing.

Powerball winner who demands anonymity to get money

The Free Press WV

A New Hampshire woman who won a $559.7 million Powerball jackpot is likely to get the money soon as her demand to remain anonymous makes its way through the courts.

Judge Charles Temple heard arguments Tuesday from lawyers for the woman and the state. He didn’t indicate when he would rule.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe, is asking the judge to allow her to remain anonymous despite signing the ticket following the Jan. 6 drawing. She later learned that she could have shielded her identity by writing the name of a trust.

New Hampshire Lottery Executive Director Charlie McIntyre says the woman should be able to claim her winnings as the dispute plays out and that they have been in discussion about transferring money.

Her lawyers indicated a trust has been set up.

$450 million Mega Millions winning ticket sold in Florida

The Free Press WV

The winning ticket in the latest Mega Millions drawing was sold in Florida.

One ticket matched all six numbers in Friday night’s drawing and will claim a $450 million grand prize. The Florida Lottery says the winning ticket was bought at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Port Richey.

The winning numbers to claim the nation’s 10th-largest jackpot were 28-30-39-59-70-10.

Lottery officials also increased the jackpot of Powerball, the other national lottery game, to $570 million. That drawing is Saturday night.

The jackpots refer to the annuity options for both games, in which payments are made over 29 years. Most winners opt for cash options, which would be $281 million for Mega Millions and $358.5 million for Powerball.

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 302.5 million. Powerball odds are one in 292.2 million.

State lottery officials hope people find luck in Powerball, Mega Millions

The Free Press WV

West Virginians have previously been lucky playing the Powerball and Mega Millions lottery games, and West Virginia Lottery officials hope 2018 will start with a Mountaineer winning big.

For the second time ever, each game has grand prizes worth more $300 million. Mega Millions has a jackpot of $361 million — the eighth-largest top prize in the game’s history — and Powerball’s top prize is $440 million, the ninth-largest jackpot since the game’s start in 1992.

Mega Millions’ winning numbers were 1, 42, 47, 64, 70 and 22 with a 4x multiplier.

West Virginia Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said Mega Millions will offer bigger jackpots after a ticket price increase from $1 to $2.

“People want those bigger jackpots, that life-changing money,” he said. “Years and years and sales data show that more and more people don’t play now unless those jackpots are at a really high amount.

Burnside added with the jackpots are between $250 million and $300 million is when increases in sales occur. He also said there are other prize options if one does not win the top prize.

“If you match five numbers, you’ve won a million dollars,” he said. “If you match four plus the Powerball, you’ve won $50,000.”

Eight West Virginians have won the Powerball jackpot, with the last winner happening in 2010. According to Burnside, more than 30 people have won prizes of at least $1 million in the Powerball and Mega Millions games.

The Powerball drawing is set for Wednesday at 10:59 p.m.

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