DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – After a long string of relatively low prizes, US lottery players now have a choice of games offering combined jackpots of over $ 1 billion.
The Mega Millions Tuesday night draw jackpot rose to $ 615 million, and the Powerball game’s top prize hit $ 550 million ahead of Wednesday’s draw.
It has been almost two years since the two national lottery games have offered such giant prizes and this is only the second time that both jackpots have exceeded $ 500 million.
The projected Mega Millions grand prize is the eighth largest in US history, and the Powerball jackpot is the 12th largest. Both are still pale compared to the bigger prize, a $ 1.58 billion Powerball jackpot won by three players in 2016.
Lottery prices have been rising more slowly since last spring, when officials lowered guaranteed minimums and stopped promising specific increases because the coronavirus caused sales to slow.
Maryland Lottery and Gaming spokesperson Carole Gentry said on Monday that the prizes were now giant, mainly because it had been months since no one had won either jackpot. But Gentry also speculated that more people are buying tickets because “it’s something fun to focus on in the New Year,” causing prices to go up faster.
As fun as it is to play the games, people should realize that their chances of winning the big prizes are incredibly small. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are one in 292.2 million, and the odds are even worse for Mega Millions at one in 302.5 million.
The jackpots promoted by lotteries also refer to winners who take an annuity option, in which the prizes are paid over 30 years. Almost all of the winners actually go for the cash option, which for Mega Millions would now be estimated at $ 451.8 million and for Powerball at $ 411.4 million.
Mega Millions and Powerball are both played in 45 states as well as Washington, DC and the US Virgin Islands. Powerball is also offered in Puerto Rico.