Mega Millions

Mega Millions is a lottery game with huge jackpots. You can play Mega Millions in 47 jurisdictions: 45 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is one of the largest lotteries in the number of people who play and the size of the jackpots.

How Mega Millions jackpots get so big

Because Mega Millions is legal in most of the U.S., millions of people play each week. Far more people play Mega Millions than play any single state lottery. With so many people buying tickets, a huge amount of money is added to the jackpot, causing the jackpots to grow quickly.

When jackpots reach high levels, more people want in on the action, and those already playing buy more tickets. This creates an upward spiral—the jackpot grows faster, creating even more demand, and the jackpot rockets upward until the drawing.

How to play Mega Millions online

Mega Millions is played much like any other lottery. You select a set of numbers, hoping they will match those drawn on game day. In Mega Millions, you select two sets of numbers: five main numbers from 1-70 and a sixth number, called the Mega Ball, from 1-25.

Tickets can be purchased in person at retail outlets in the jurisdictions where Mega Millions can be played or in states that allow online purchases. You can select numbers from your favorite ‘lucky’ or meaningful numbers or have the numbers randomly selected.

Mega Millions can be played online in ten jurisdictions:

– Georgia.

– Illinois.

– Kentucky.

– Michigan.

– New Hampshire.

North Carolina.

– North Dakota.

– Pennsylvania.

– Virginia.

– Washington D.C.

These states and jurisdictions have federal oversight and encrypted technology to ensure the draw is fair.

Once you’ve selected the numbers and purchased your tickets in person or online, it’s just a matter of waiting for the draw to occur. The Mega Millions draw is every Tuesday and Friday at 11:00 p.m. EST. Make sure to get tickets before the draw.

Where can Mega Millions be purchased?

Most Mega Millions online purchases go through state-affiliated websites. There are also independent and licensed apps like Jackpocket to buy tickets. Some apps such as LottoAgent and The Lottery have time-tested solid reputations of secure play but beware of off-shore sites that claim affiliation with online state lotteries but are not regulated or licensed by any state.

Mega Millions jackpots

To win the jackpot, the five main numbers and the additional Mega Ball number on your ticket need to match the numbers drawn. If the five main numbers match but the Mega Ball number does not, you are still a winner and instantly become a millionaire. Even if fewer than five numbers match, you can still win. In addition to the jackpot and millionaire level, there are seven prize levels.

The Mega Millions jackpot is based on how many tickets people purchase. The starting jackpot is usually around $20,000,000 and increases as tickets are sold, sometimes by a lot. In March 2012, the jackpot reached $656 million, a record amount for any lottery then and for the next four years. Then, in January 2016, a Powerball jackpot reached $1.586 billion.

Mega Millions has changed the game format, making it harder to win the jackpot, which has caused the jackpots to increase. In August 2023, Mega Millions set a new world record when the jackpot hit $1.602 billion.

Other Mega Millions prizes

Matching the 5 main numbers and Mega Ball to win the jackpot or matching only the 5 main numbers to win a million dollars are the main ways to win Mega Millions. However, you can win seven other prizes by playing Mega Millions.

  • Matching 4 main numbers and 1 Mega Ball—$10,000
  • Matching 4 main numbers—$500
  • Matching 3 main numbers and 1 Mega Ball—$200
  • Matching 3 main numbers—$10
  • Matching 2 main numbers and 1 Mega Ball—$10
  • Matching 1 main numbers and 1 Mega Ball—$4
  • Matching 1 Mega Ball—$2

Odds of winning a Mega Millions prize

Statistically, Mega Millions is one of the most difficult jackpots to win. Jackpots often grow so large because the chances of correctly choosing the correct numbers are so low. The odds are:

Jackpot302,575,350 to 1
$1 million12,607,306 to 1
$10,000931,001 to 1
$50038,792 to 1
$20014,547 to 1
$10606 to 1
$10693 to 1
$489 to 1
$237 to 1

The Megaplier and Just The Jackpot

In addition to the nine prizes, Mega Millions has recently included two add-ons, the Megaplier and Just The Jackpot.

The Megaplier is a randomly chosen number from two to five. It can be added for an extra $1 when you buy a ticket. If you win one of the eight non-jackpot prizes, the amount won is multiplied by the Megaplier value. Not all jurisdictions offer the Megaplier.

Just The Jackpot is an option available in some states. You have two chances to win the jackpot. Just The Jackpot tickets cost $3.00 and are only for the jackpot. You can not win any of the other prizes.

Getting the results of the Mega Millions draw

You will find the winning numbers on the official Mega Millions website. Mega Millions posts the winning numbers after each drawing on Tuesday and Friday at 11:00 p.m. EST. The number of winners is posted on the website on Wednesday and Saturday mornings once Mega Millions lottery officials have verified the winning ticket sales.

Each state that offers Mega Millions has a player information telephone number you can call for the winning numbers. Additionally, many individual lottery services will email or text you automatically with the winning numbers.

History of Mega Millions in the U.S.

Mega Millions started as ‘The Big Game’ on Aug. 31, 1996. in six states:

  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Virginia

In 2010, Mega Millions and Powerball came together, adding 23 states to the lottery. Today, Mega Millions is available in 45 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands.

Over the years, Mega Millions has awarded four lucky winners with jackpots worth over $1 billion.


Can a Mega Millions ticket purchased in one state be redeemed in another state?

Individual state lotteries sell Mega Millions. Therefore, winning tickets must be redeemed in the same state in which they were purchased. Most jurisdictions allow you to claim your winnings by mail if you are unable to collect them in person.

How long do I have to collect my winnings?

Each jurisdiction determines the redemption time. Redemption time is within 90 days to one year from the draw date. Make sure to check the rules and regulations in the jurisdiction in which you purchased your tickets.

Can more than one person divide a Mega Millions prize?

Yes, Mega Millions winnings can be split. Winners can decide how to divide a prize when they claim it. Each jurisdiction has specific rules and regulations regarding sharing Mega Millions prizes. Make sure to check with the lottery in the state where you bought your tickets.

Does Mega Millions have a mobile app?

Mega Millions does not have a mobile app. This is because each jurisdiction sells the tickets under different rules and regulations. However, most jurisdictions do have apps for their lotteries, including Mega Millions.

Do I have to pay tax on Mega Millions winnings?

Yes, winnings are subject to income taxes.

What are the payout options?

The lucky few who win a Mega Millions jackpot can collect their winnings in cash or an annual payout via an annuity. The annuity pays over 30 years, starting with an initial annual payment. The following 29 payments increase by 5 percent each year.  The cash option is a one-time, lump-sum payment. Each jurisdiction has slightly different rules and regulations, so check with the jurisdiction where you purchased your tickets for details.

What happens if I lose a ticket?

A lost ticket is lost. Mega Millions is not responsible for lost or stolen tickets. Mega Millions offers a layer of protection by allowing you to sign the back of your tickets. If your ticket is not signed, anyone who has your ticket can collect the winnings.

What happens if no one claims a Mega Millions jackpot?

If a ticket matches all the numbers drawn and no one claims the winnings within the redemption time, which varies by state, then the money returns to Mega Millions and the jurisdiction in which the ticket was purchased. Funds that the jurisdiction contributed are returned to Mega Millions, and the other funds are used by the jurisdiction as specified in the rules and regulations.

If I win Mega Millions, can collect the prize anonymously?

Anonymity depends on the jurisdiction in which you purchased the ticket. Some jurisdictions require their lotteries to publicly identify winners, while others do not. Make sure to check the rules and regulations in the jurisdiction in which you purchased your tickets.

About the Author