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)

Latest Headlines

in Entertainment

This weekend in entertainment history

In this film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox, the character Neytiri, voiced by Zoe Saldana, left, and the character Jake, voiced by Sam Worthington are shown in a scene from, "Avatar." The film was nominated Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010 for an Oscar for best picture. The 82nd Academy Awards will be presented on March 7.

A look back on some of Hollywood's most notable headlines.

in Music

This week’s top alternative tracks

hozier

LISTEN: This week's top alternative songs, according to the weekly Billboard chart.

in Entertainment

If regular people picked the Oscars, ‘American Sniper’ would win

In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Kyle Gallner, left, and Bradley Cooper appear in a scene from "American Sniper."

If ordinary Americans voted for the Academy Awards, the portrait of a sharpshooter in the Iraq war, would be the best picture winner.

in Viral Videos

Elders play Grand Theft Auto V

20-overlay2

They have no problem shooting people, but they refuse to run a red light!

in Entertainment

Regina Hall almost became a nun

reginahall

The "Think Like a Man" star missed out on becoming a nun because some of her "numbers" were too high.