What was the largest Mega Millions jackpot in history?
(NEXSTAR) – The current Mega Millions jackpot is valued at over a billion dollars — but it’s still far from the largest jackpot ever awarded in the history of the game.
In fact, the jackpot has surpassed the billion-dollar mark three times since 1996, when the Mega Millions lottery (then known as “The Big Game”) debuted in a handful of states.
The most recent billion-dollar jackpot was awarded to a single ticketholder in Michigan on Jan. 22, 2021, after the prize money accumulated for just over four months, during which time there were 37 drawings and no grand-prize winners. At $1.05 billion (or a $776.6 million cash option), it was the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot ever awarded.
The biggest jackpot in the history of the game, however, was awarded a few years earlier in Oct. 2018. After three months and 26 drawings, the grand prize of $1.537 billion (or $878 million in a one-time cash payment) was claimed by another lone ticketholder, this time in South Carolina.
The current Mega Millions jackpot — valued at an estimated $1.025 billion (or $602.5 million cash) — ranks third in the all-time list. The rest of the top jackpots, meanwhile, have never even surpassed the $700-million threshold.
“We look with anticipation on the growing jackpot,” said Ohio Lottery Director Pat McDonald, the current Lead Director of the Mega Millions Consortium, in a press release issued Wednesday. “Seeing the jackpot build over a period of months and reaching the billion-dollar mark is truly breathtaking. We encourage customers to keep play in balance and enjoy the ride. Someone is going to win.”
The chances of taking home the jackpot remain awfully slim, though: The odds of winning the big prize (matching all five numbers as well as the Mega Ball) are 1 in 302,575,350, according to Mega Millions. The odds of matching the first five numbers for the second-tier prize — a million bucks — are significantly better yet woefully improbable at 1 in 12,607,306.
Looking for slightly better odds? You could always play the Powerball, where the chances of hitting the jackpot is a mere 1-in-292,201,338, and the odds of winning the million-dollar prize are only 1 in 11,688,053.