MUSL via state lotteries
Mega Millions was the benchmark for multistate or multinational lotteries and was previously our number 1 of the 20 or so lotteries across the world that we have looked into - both in terms of size and real value offered to players. The $1,537m It paid out in October 2018 is the second biggest jackpot ever, and only just trumped by the Powerball in 2016. It has better average jackpots than most and a decent chance of winning the $1m second tier prize. If you go for the megaplier option you also get better second prizes than its nearest 'rival' the Powerball. Despite the bigger jackpots these days it has slipped down our rankings since the odds and price changes in late 2017.
Mega Millions is available across 46 localities in the US and many concierge or betting services also offer the chance for others to play internationally. The states of Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah do not sell lottery tickets.
How it Works
Date and time of draws
There are 2 draws on a Tuesday and a Friday at 11pm ET.
No. of balls and how to hit the jackpot
At first glance, having to match just 5 numbers plus the bonus ball makes this lottery sound more attractive than many others where you need 5 plus 2 or 6 plus 1. But when you see that there are 70 main and 25 bonus balls to choose from, you'll understand why the odds are pretty high of hitting the big one!
For an extra $1 the megaplier option gives you a multiple of the non jackpot prizes from 2 to 4. 12% of people play the megaplier so it's fairly popular. Dollar for dollar, though, it isn't as good value as your basic lottery ticket unless the jackpot is quite low. There is also a new option of the jackpot only prize which costs less ($3 for two lines).
Price, Tickets & Sales
This used to be a nice accessible lottery costing just $1 per line but the price was doubled in late 2017 to $2.
Tickets Sold Per Draw
At around 18m tickets per draw, this is one of the biggest lotteries in the world (#5 at last check) although when a big jackpot nears, the number of tickets sold can hit 50m! From 2016 to 2015, however, the average number of megamillions tickets sold dipped by more than 10%, maybe explained by the arrival of the headline-grabbing $1bn+ Powerball jackpots, its nearest 'rival' for your money in the US. This is probably one reason for the recent price increase (which does at least deliver bigger jackpots).
Sales per draw
It will now feature near the top of the world's largest lotteries by sales volume, given its new $2 price tag.
Odds of hitting the jackpot
The prize table for Mega Millions is as follows:
The odds of hitting the jackpot have increased over the years from 53m to 76m to 175m to 258m and are now 302 million to 1. Megamillions have done this by increasing the numbers of balls needed to strike it rich. On the one hand this means that you have a far smaller chance of hitting the jackpot these days but on the other hand, when your numbers do come up, the jackpot will be so much higher. There's been plenty of criticism of the odds increase with many believing that it's all just a ploy to make more money and pay out less but in reality, those who design lottery games do also realise that they're competing with all sorts of other games and draws out there and they have to make it attractive. The big advantage of longer odds is that jackpots roll over more frequently. This creates press interest which in turn piques players' interest and sales and the jackpots begin to grow even faster...!
Balls and Bonus Balls
5 and 1
5 and 0
4 and 1
4 and 0
3 and 1
3 and 0
2 and 1
1 and 1
0 and 1
*Average jackpot size when it is hit
Odds of winning any prize
The megamillions paytable has some of the biggest jackpots on the planet plus a nice $1m second tier prize. Overall, you have a 1 in 24 chance of winning any prize, which is similar to the average for all lotteries of 1 in 25. The chance of winning more than the value of your stake back is below average at around 1 in 69.
The $40m minimum jackpot for Mega Millions is great but clearly a clone of its biggest rival (the Powerball) and this seed amount is not the only characteristic that was 'copied across'. There are only four lotteries worldwide that have starting jackpots above $10m. In fact, the Mega Millions minimum seeded jackpot is much higher than the average jackpot for most other lotteries!
On a typical draw, you'd expect the megamillions to be around $120m so if you're subscribing to a lottery, it doesn't get much better than this. The average jackpot when it is hit is an impressive $203m.
Average jackpot when hit
The average jackpot on Mega Millions when hit is around $150m. But at this figure, ticket sales haven't increased massively from their normal level. This is because there's been some jackpot fatigue on Mega Millions in the last few years. In 2011, for example, ticket sales would really start to pick up when the jackpot reached $250m. More recently, the same jackpot needs to get to $350m for people to pile in. Whilst this jackpot 'fatigue' sounds like a negative thing, actually it's great for the jackpot hunters out there who have less competition around the $300m mark and are thus less likely to share their winnings.
Highest jackpot ever
The highest jackpot ever paid out on Mega Millions was for $1,537m in 2018, just under the best ever jackpot for the Powerball but unlike the Powerball was won by one single ticket! Note that previously, the top 10 Mega Millions jackpots of all time were worth over $300m and were shared on average by 2 people.
Jackpot winners per year
Given the long odds, the Mega Millions jackpot will only be hit about 6x per year. On average when it is claimed, the size of a Mega Millions jackpot is now similar to the Powerball in terms of its size.
Contribution to the jackpot
The jackpot represents a huge % of prize value and when it is hit, it makes up some 85% of all payouts. When jackpots are lower they still represent around 40% of total payouts. The good thing about the megaplier option is that by increasing payouts of non jackpot wins, the lottery becomes much less a 'winner takes all' prospect. At minimum jackpot level, playing with the megaplier, for example, the jackpot is only 10% of total payouts. In this context, the megaplier option is popular as it helps to spread the love a lot further!
Return to Player
Megamillions state that 50% of sales are returned in prizes, with 35% going to state governments, 6% to retailers and the rest spent on operations and marketing. This would suggest that the RTP (or return to player) of every $1 spent on tickets is around 50c. In reality the RTP that you face when you play will depend on the size of the jackpot on that draw.
RTP when first seeded
The 'average' is now more skewed by the very high jackpot rollover figures. If, for example, you buy a ticket the draw after a jackpot win when it's just been 'reseeded' with the minimum (even with the healthy $40m minimums), your return is much closer to 20c on the dollar!
If you're a subscribing player, your average return each week across all jackpot sizes is fairly low now at around 32c.
RTP when jackpot typically hit
But if you wait until the jackpot reaches its 'average' size when won of $203m then the RTP is closer to the 50c projected payout mark.
If you have the patience to wait until the jackpot gets into silly territory, then you can get a positive return on your $1 ticket price, even after paying tax and risking it being shared with other players, but only if you take the annuity option. If you were to choose to take it as cash (and why not if you've won it!) the RTP after making deductions for cash option, sharing and tax would no longer be a positive. See our jackpot alerts at the bottom.
Payouts and Taxes
Annuity vs Cash
If you choose to take cash rather than the annuity option for Mega Millions, you will be receiving around 65% of the value of the advertised jackpot. This means, for example, that a $100m jackpot would only (!) be worth around $65m if you chose to receive your winnings all upfront. Whilst 35% is a big bite out of winnings, the average size of a Mega Millions jackpot at $203m means that your $130m cash payment is still a tidy sum!
As with many US lotteries, Mega Millions wins over $600 are also subject to local US taxation, both federal and state. Federal taxes are 25% (or 30% for overseas residents) and state taxes vary between 0% and 8%.
Megamillions used to be interesting to play when the jackpot rolled over to $210m. Since the recent changes, it now needs to be nearer $900m! Given that the average jackpot is around $203m, this won't happen too frequently! Above $900m, a player should be getting what's known as a 'positive return' on his/her 'investment'! Also, you'd need to take the annuity option too. If you'd like jackpot alerts, fill in your details here...!
Big minimum jackpots, good chances of winning at least the $1m second tier prize, very big headline grabbing jackpots.
Annuity version much smaller than cash; disappointing recent changes to the odds and payout tables resulting in much lower RTP for most draws.
Set your jackpot alert for this one at $900m and do take the annuity option if you win: though no one could really criticize you if you don't! To play this lottery and others online, check out our preferred agents.