Mega Millions jackpot jumps, could reach $1 billion

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by Christine Romans

CNN

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 7:41 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 17 at 7:41 AM

(CNN) -- The Mega Millions jackpot is juicy, but thanks to new, longer odds, it’s entirely possible the payout could reach $1 billion by Christmas.

Nope, that wasn’t a typo—“b” as in “boy.”

When no winner was selected in Friday’s drawing, the jackpot rolled over to $550 million, and it jumped again Monday to $586 million, with a cash payout of $316.5 million, said Tandi Reddick, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Lottery.

The total could easily increase again before Tuesday night’s drawing.

If you’re wondering how this stacks up against past prizes, it’s the second-largest Mega Millions payout ever after the $656 million kitty collected in April 2012. Here is a look at the top five jackpots in history, according to lottery officials:

  •  No. 1 -- In March 2012, lottery officials announced three winning tickets for the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot were sold in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland;
  •  No. 2 -- A Florida woman won the $590.5 million Powerball jackpot in May;
  •  No. 3 -- The $587.5 million Powerball jackpot was collected in November 2012 by a man in Arizona and a couple in Missouri;
  •  No. 4 -- A $448.4 million Powerball jackpot was split by two winners in New Jersey and one in Minnesota in August;
  •  No. 5 -- A single winner in South Carolina won the $399.4 million jackpot in September.

So, the real question is: What are the chances of winning?

Well, as CNN reported last week, you have a much, much better chance of being killed by an asteroid. And while those are long odds, they’re even longer than they were in early October.

That’s because on October 22, Mega Millions made it more difficult to take home the big prize. The odds, which were 1 in 176 million, are now 1 in 259 million.

This is a product of the lottery company increasing the pool of numbers to choose from.

Previously, lottery players choose five numbers, ranging from one to 56. It’s now one to 75, but the sixth, gold ball has fewer numbers from which to choose, as the pool decreased from 46 to 15.

How many people have won since the new rules went into effect? Zero. And if that trend continues, lottery players could see their first 10-digit jackpot just in time for the holiday season.

If nobody wins Tuesday night, the jackpot for Friday’s drawing will begin at $800 million, said Paula Otto with the Virginia Lottery.

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