News

Mega Millions jackpot could set lottery record

Mega Millions jackpot could set lottery record

BIG MONEY: Karen Rodriguez prints out a Mega Millions lottery ticket at the Fuel City convenience story Monday, Dec. 16 in Dallas. The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year. Photo: Associated Press//LM Otero

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) – A last-minute ticket buying frenzy could make Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot the biggest U.S. lottery prize in history, and odds are mounting for a winner just a week before Christmas, a game official said.

The prize swelled to $586 million on Monday, with another spike in sales expected Tuesday before the 11 p.m. EST drawing, said Paula Otto, Virginia’s lottery director, who heads the multi-state Mega Millions game.

If the winner chooses to take the lump sum cash option, instead of payments over 30 years, the jackpot would be $316 million, according to Mega Millions.

As much as 70 percent of tickets are typically bought the day of the drawing, she said.

Ticket buying reached a fever pitch over the weekend, with 20 percent more chances sold than expected, Otto said.

The spending tsunami pushed the prize closer to the record U.S. jackpot of $656 million, won March 2012 in a Mega Millions drawing. The second largest lottery jackpot was $590.5 million, won May 2013 in a Powerball game.

“If it doesn’t surpass the record, we’ll be close. It’s growing a little faster than we thought,” Otto said on Monday.

The more tickets sold, the better chance someone will match one of the 259 million possible number combinations that could land a jackpot. By Tuesday’s drawing, players will have bought enough tickets to cover 65 percent to 75 percent of the possible number combinations to strike it rich, Otto said.

“You don’t know you have a winner unless it’s 100 percent covered, though,” she said.

If no one picks the exact combination of numbers that appear on six randomly selected lottery balls, the prize will keep growing until the next drawing on Friday.

“We’ve never had a jackpot this high the week before Christmas,” said Otto, who kept mum on whether she is hoping for the drama that a Christmas Eve drawing could bring.

“You like to see winners and you like to see big jackpots. I leave it in the hands of the bouncing balls,” Otto said.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

Recent Headlines

in National

White House bemoans lawmakers’ delay on border crisis

Fresh
border

White House officials expressed growing alarm that Congress may not approve $3.7B in emergency funds to tackle the child migration crisis.

in National

Creepy porcelain dolls left on California front porches

dolls

Police are investigating dolls left on the doorsteps of at least eight families, that homeowners said bore a resemblance their daughters.

in Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: ‘I’m on vacation’

vaca

Everything's OK, when you're on vacation!

in National, World

Crunch time for Gaza truce talks as death toll climbs

gaza

The U.S. pressed for a Gaza ceasefire as the civilian death toll soared, threatening to spread Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed to the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

in National

Obama rails against corporate loopholes to evade taxes

obama

President Barack Obama hammered companies that avoid federal taxes by shifting their tax domiciles overseas in deals known as "inversions."