In January 2012, Mega Millions' rival Powerball was altered; among the changes were a price increase of $1 for each play, as a result, a base game costs $2, or $3 with the Power Play option. At the time, there were no plans to change the price of a Mega Millions play, with or without the Megaplier (see below for the 2017 format change that includes the base price for a Mega Millions play to be raised to $2.) The price increase for playing Powerball was a major factor in Louisiana deciding to pursue joining Mega Millions, as that state's lottery joined Mega Millions on November 16, 2011.
Lottery jackpots are overwhelming played by low-income Americans, studies show. In fact, the lottery jackpot only becomes “progressive” — meaning that high earners spend more on tickets than more than low earners — when the jackpot is at least $806 million or more, according to this study by Emily Oster, currently a professor of economics at Brown University.
The advertised estimated jackpot represents the total payments that would be paid to jackpot winner(s) should they accept the annuity option. This estimate is based on the funds accumulated in the jackpot pool rolled over from prior drawings, expected sales for the next drawing, and market interest rates for the securities that would be used to fund the annuity. The estimated jackpot usually is 32.5% of the (non-Power Play) revenue of each base ($1) play, submitted by game members to accumulate into a prize pool to fund the jackpot. If the jackpot is not won in a particular drawing, the prize pool carries over to the next drawing, accumulating until there is a jackpot winner. This prize pool is the cash that is paid to a jackpot winner if they choose cash. If the winner chooses the annuity, current market rates are used to calculate the graduated payment schedule and the initial installment is paid. The remaining funds in the prize pool are invested to generate the income required to fund the remaining installments. If there are multiple jackpot winners for a drawing, the jackpot prize pool is divided equally for all such plays.
During the middle of its four-year run, LA became a more traditional pick-6-of-54 game; unlike the first version, players got two games for $1. The jackpot odds actually became more "favorable" at 1 in 13 million per dollar; however, overall odds were much tougher, since four numbers were still needed to win the lowest prize tier. This version was entirely parimutuel.
In California, prize levels are paid on a parimutuel basis, rather than the fixed lower-tier amounts for winners in other Mega Millions jurisdictions. California's eight lower-tier Mega Millions prize pools are separate from those shared by the other 45 lotteries. California's second prize is a "secondary jackpot"; its payout sometimes exceeds $1 million cash, even though California does not offer the Megaplier.
Players who match five numbers from the first pool win $1 million; those matching four numbers from the first pool and the Gold Mega Ball number win $10,000; those matching four numbers from the first pool win $500; those matching three numbers from the first pool and the Gold Mega Ball win $200; those matching two numbers plus the Gold Mega Ball win $10; those matching one number and the Gold Mega Ball win $4; and those matching only the Gold Mega Ball win $2.
Jackpot winners have the choice of receiving their prize either in one single lump sum payment, or once a year with the annuity option (30 payments over 29 years). They have 60 days to decide which way they want to be paid. During these 60 days, a player who originally opted for the annuity payment is able to instead take the lump sum payment option. If they do not make a choice either way, after 60 days, the player will automatically receive their prize as an annuity.