Mega Millions jackpot reaches $1bn and could grow even bigger

Kristin Hugo
Customers line up to buy Mega Millions tickets at a newsstand in midtown Manhattan, New York: Mike Sugar/Reuters

This week's Mega Millions lottery has reached the highest jackpot in the game’s history—$1 billion (£765m).

The winning numbers will be selected on Friday night. Each $2 ticket has a one in 302.5 million chance of winning.

This is the biggest jackpot that the Mega Millions has ever had. However, it is only the second biggest lottery prize in U.S. history. The 2016 Powerball jackpot was $1.56bn. If no one wins on Friday, the Mega Millions lottery pot will go up to $1.6bn on Tuesday.

Kirit Prajapati, who sells lottery tickets at a Carlton Cards shop in Penn Station, said the store has been packed with people hoping to win.

“It's busy, you see? It's madness going on,” Mr Prajapati told the Associated Press.

The winner can choose either a slow payout, or a lump sum of $565.6 million after state and federal taxes. Almost all winners chose the lump sum payout. Different states have different deadlines to buy tickets, but the cutoff for this round will be in the evening on Friday. They’ll draw at 11 PM ET.

As weeks pass with no winners, more money goes into the jackpot. The Mega Millions lottery is going longer without a payout because it’s getting harder to win.

Because playing the lottery is more popular in low-income communities, and because it costs players so much more money than it pays out, some say the lottery is a regressive tax on the poor.

Others have labelled the lottery a bad investment—playing the stock market or at a casino has much better odds. Others argue that buying a reasonable number of lottery tickets is not a bad idea if you think it’s worth it to take part in a hopeful dream.