All-time Highest Jackpot Won on Mega Millions

Posted on Oct 26, 2018


So Tuesday's Mega Millions jackpot was a little higher than what we’re usually accustomed to: $1.5 BILLION! Ridiculous, right? We thought we’d just get that right out of the way, because our collective jaws are still somewhere in vicinity of Earth’s core.

A New Milestone:

But anyway, if you don’t live under a rock, you already know what happened – last week’s Mega Millions did not yield any winners, so of course, the prize fund rose to this week’s absolute US all-time record - and we witnessed a piece of modern-day history.

A very lucky ticket holder from South Carolina got these balls right – white ones with the numbers 5, 28, 62, 65 and 70 and the Mega Ball number 5. For that, they've been awarded with the mind-boggling $1.537 billion!

For the sake of comparison, the previous highest lottery jackpot on Mega Millions was $656 million, won in March 2012.

Gordon Medenica, Mega Millions Group Lead Director and Director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming stated: “The moment we’ve been waiting for finally arrived, and we couldn’t be more excited. This is truly a historic occasion. We’re so happy for the winner, and we know the South Carolina Education Lottery can’t wait to meet the lucky ticket holder.”

So, our fondest congratulations to the winner as they get ready to tackle the great problem of what to do with that amount of money. But, before imagining that pivotal moment of announcing someone has actually won the major prize, followed by the daydreaming about what you’d do with that amout of money – we’re gonna go ahead and rain on everyone’s parade by telling:

It’s not really what it seems. Yeah, it’s basically all smoke and mirrors when it comes to actual winning, to a certain extent, of course.

What is Won and What is Not:

We don’t want to undermine the undeniable credibility of Mega Millions – what they do is perfectly legit and in the green zone, and it’s not them who are making mistakes, but people whose high expectations end up in tatters when they learn the harsh truth.

For instance, the said South Carolina winner in reality took home only $848 million in cash.

Our geniuses at work over at Wizard of Odds have done their math multiple times and their general verdict on Mega Millions lottery jackpot winning expected return in general is: meh.

We’ll elaborate. First of all, the lottery began in 1996 and has since been in several stages of overhaul with several vital changes regarding rules and procedures – the current iterration follows the October 2017 edition of rules. The cost of the ticket is now $2...

...To play, those participating need to pick five white balls with numbers from 1 to 70 and one Power Ball with numbers from 1 to 25. In order to hit the jackpot one needs to get all five balls right, plus the power ball.

That was all in a nutshell – but if you want to lean more on how it all goes down, there’s no better place than the Mega Millions page on Wizard of Odds.

The Analysis of Expected Return:

First of all, the actual probability of winning the jackpot is measly 4.1% - and that’s not even the most disencouraging piece of info for the keen player.

There are 302,575,350 possible combinations and for a $40,000,000 jackpot, the player can expect a return rate of 18.96% 0 for every additional $100 million in jackpots, the return rate rises by 16.52%.

In general, playing Mega Millions and expecting a huge return rate on a jackpot is purely an act of optimism – with lottery's cut, jackpot sharing, annuity and taxes, the expected return rarely goes beyond 40%.

You can do more calculations for this with Wizard of Odd's awesome Mega Millions Calculator .

Source: “Record Mega Millions Jackpot Won in South Carolina“. Mega Millions. October 24, 2018.

Comment: Even with the poor return rate, I would not complain because my share would still be enormous.

By Andrej Vidovic

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