Mega Millions (which began as The Big Game in 1996 and renamed, temporarily, to The Big Game Mega Millions six years later) is an American multi-jurisdictional lottery game; it is offered in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The first (The Big Game) Mega Millions drawing was in 2002; see below. (What is now Mega Millions initially was offered in six states; the logo for all versions of the game following the retiring of The Big Game name featured a gold-colored ball with six stars to represent the game's initial membership.)
The minimum Powerball bet is $2. In each game, players select five numbers from a set of 69 white balls and one number from 26 red Powerballs; the red ball number can be the same as one of the white balls. The drawing order of the five white balls is irrelevant; all tickets show the white ball numbers in ascending order. Players cannot use the drawn Powerball to match two of their white numbers, or vice versa. Players can select their own numbers, or have the terminal pseudorandomly select the numbers (called "quick pick", "easy pick", etc.).
In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the legislature in Albany, fearing a monumental loss of revenue, passed legislation the following month, which was signed by Governor George Pataki, which included joining a multi-jurisdictional lottery game. Around the same time, for entirely different reasons, Ohio's governor also gave the green light to joining a multi-jurisdictional game. Both lotteries opted to join The Big Game, which, at the time, was offered in seven states. The added populations of the two new jurisdictions, in turn, led to a larger double matrix. The first machine continued to hold white 52 balls, while 16 gold balls were added in the second, meaning there were 52 numbers to pick from in both parts of each $1 game. On May 15, 2002, the game was renamed The Big Game Mega Millions; shortly after, it became just Mega Millions. Except for the 2010 cross-selling expansion, this was the only time The Big Game or Mega Millions simultaneously added more than one member.
These changes were made to increase the frequency of nine-figure jackpots; a Powerball spokesperson believed a $500 million jackpot was feasible (it became a reality within the year,) and that the 1st $1 billion jackpot in US history would occur by 2012 Less than three months after the Powerball changes, Mega Millions' jackpot reached $656,000,000 despite remaining a $1-per-play game. The random Power Play multiplier was retired for a set, fixed dollar amount payout. The $25 million rollover "cap" (creating larger 5+0 prizes) was eliminated.
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Winning the jackpot requires matching all five numbers, plus the Powerball. Players who match five numbers win $1 million; players who match four numbers plus the Powerball win $50,000; players who match four numbers win $100; players who match three numbers plus the Powerball win $100; players who match three numbers win $7; players who match two numbers plus the Powerball win $7; players who match one number plus the Powerball win $4; and players who match only the Powerball win $4.
For that reason, Brent Kramer, a research associate at the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization, and others call lotteries a “regressive tax” by offering the poor a rich fantasy. “If the promised return is by far illusory — and it is — it would be hard to argue that those purchases do not constitute a tax on those who believe the state’s hype,” Kramer wrote in a 2010 paper. In the event that someone did win the latest $700 million Powerball lottery, Bernal says it will be “the single biggest redistribution of wealth” since, well, the January 2016 Powerball.
When you play Mega Millions online and match all five main numbers plus the Mega Ball, and you will be entitled to your share of a multi-million dollar jackpot. Mega Millions’ starting jackpot is $40,000,000. Its personal best was also a world record for four years; it awarded a $656 million jackpot in March 2012. One third of this huge prize was won by the 'Three Amigos', three members of what is possibly the most famous winning lottery syndicate.
*a tip to know whether the website you are looking at actually buys lottery tickets online or follows the insurance model is to check the wording that they use. If you see the words “Play” then you can be confident it is a company that has agents and buys your tickets physically, if you see the words “Bet” you can be sure it is following the insurance model and you are placing a bet on the outcome of a lottery.