Somebody, somewhere in South Carolina, is going to look at their bank balance Wednesday and think: Well, that escalated quickly.
Lottery officials said early Wednesday that a single ticket purchased in South Carolina won the record-setting $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot.
No additional details were immediately available.
The winning numbers were 5-28-62-65-70, with a Mega Ball number of 5, and lottery officials estimated that 75 percent of all number combinations had been purchased by the time of Tuesday night’s drawing.
The estimated cash option for the largest grand prize in U.S. lottery history – should the winner choose to take a one-time lump-sum payment instead of annual payouts over 30 years – is $913 million, according to Mega Millions officials.
Lottery fever struck nationwide ahead of Tuesday’s drawing, with jackpot chasers waiting in long lines for tickets. Virginia Lottery officials said as many as 12,700 tickets were being sold per minute at the sales peak in that state.
Mega Millions officials count on enormous jackpots to draw in players who would ordinarily avoid participating. Last October, those officials made two big changes: They doubled ticket prices to $2 – and tweaked the formula to make it easier to win smaller prizes but harder to win the jackpot.
Here’s how Mega Millions used to work: Players picked five numbers from 1 to 75 and a Mega number from 1 to 15. The odds of winning the top prize were 1 in 258,890,850.
Since Mega Millions modified the formula, players now pick five numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega number of 1 to 25. The odds of winning the jackpot are now 1 in 302,575,350.
In other words, reducing the number of balls for the first five numbers increases the chances of winning a smaller prize. But raising the number of Mega Balls makes it harder to win the jackpot. (You still win the big jackpot by matching all six winning numbers in a drawing.)
Powerball made similar changes to its rules in 2015. That game itself currently has a monster jackpot, though a small one relative to Mega Millions: Powerball stands at $620 million ahead of Wednesday’s drawing.
Mega Millions reported that Friday’s prize would be a paltry $40 million.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Fred Barbash, Alex Horton