U.S. Mega Millions jackpot hits $1 billion hours before drawing


(Reuters) – The U.S. Mega Millions lottery jackpot jumped to a record $1 billion on Friday, hours before the drawing for what is also the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history.

New Yorkers queuing up to buy tickets for Friday’s lottery said they would use the prize money to go on a shopping spree, quit their jobs and donate to charity. Still, anyone who becomes a Mega Millions billionaire is likely to have a lot left over.

The $1 billion prize has attracted attention even from those who do not ordinarily buy lottery tickets.

“I get caught up in the frenzy, and you don’t want to get left behind,” said Venice Naidoo, a client operations specialist at a law firm.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

If more than one winner is picked, the jackpot would be divided proportionately, as happened when the previous Mega Millions record of $656 million was drawn in March 2012 and was shared by winners in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland, a lottery official said.

Passers-by look over a newstand billboard advertising tickets for the $1-billion Mega Millions lottery drawing in New York City, U.S., October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The televised drawing for the jackpot, which rose steadily from $667 million on Tuesday when no one had the lucky six numbers, will take place on Friday at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT Saturday).

“This is truly uncharted territory, and it’s exciting to see people across the country buying their tickets and joining in the fun,” Gordon Medenica, lead director of Mega Millions, said in a statement.

The $1 billion Mega Millions prize would be paid out over 29 years. A winner could opt instead for an immediate payment of $565.6 million.

Powerball, which holds the record for the largest U.S. lottery prize of $1.586 billion in 2016, will hold a separate drawing on Saturday. Its jackpot grew on Friday to $470 million from $430 million, with a lump sum value of $268.6 million.

Each of the 24 semi-weekly Mega Millions drawings have failed to produce a top winner since July 24, when an 11-member office pool in Santa Clara County, California, hit a $543 million jackpot.

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 302,575,350, but the odds of winning any of the lesser prizes are one in 24.

Even though no one won the top prize at Tuesday’s drawing, lottery officials noted that there were more than 4.5 million winning tickets, including eight that paid $1 million each and one that paid $5 million.

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Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and David Gregorio



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