Tonight’s Mega Millions jackpot is an estimated $810 million, the third-largest prize in the history of the interstate lottery game.
Mega Millions officials initially projected that the July 26 jackpot would be around $790 million. But with the generation-changing sum on the line, and media headlines prompting millions of typically non-lottery players into buying a ticket, the game yesterday increased the estimated prize by $20 million.
Across the country, players are taking notice — allowing the Mega Millions jackpot to be raised to an estimated $810 million, with a cash value of $470.1 million,” a Mega Million statement explained.
Mega Millions jackpots begin at $20 million and roll over to the next draw when no ticket overcomes the one in 302.6 million chance of matching all six numbers. The jackpot was last won on April 15. Since then, tens of millions of tickets have been sold, with none hitting the five white balls and gold Mega Ball.
Record Halfway Mark
The largest the Mega Millions jackpot has ever grown to occurred in 2018 when the lottery prize eclipsed $1.537 billion. A lucky player in South Carolina claimed the prize after their ticket matched all six numbers during the October 23 draw.
At $810 million, the current Mega Millions prize is more than halfway to the game’s richest jackpot ever. Mega Millions has been played for more than 20 years, but its gameplay was overhauled in 2017.
In response to Mega Millions’ primary competitor Powerball adjusting its gameplay in 2015 to lengthen the odds of hitting the jackpot, Mega Millions increased the number of its gold Mega Balls from 15 to 25. Mega Millions also reduced the number of white balls from 75 to 70 leading some to wrongly believe that the game’s jackpot odds were improving.
In actuality, Mega Millions adding 10 gold Mega Balls while reducing the white balls by five greatly lengthened the jackpot’s odds. The change took the jackpot chances from one in 258.9 million to one in 302.5 million.
With the jackpot’s odds even less likely of being hit, Mega Millions has seen seven of its 10 largest prize pools in its history occur since the gameplay change.
If someone wins the $810 million jackpot tonight, the lucky winner will choose between the full prize paid out over a 30-year annuity or opt for a one-time lump cash sum. With the latter the preferred payout, the $810 million prize would be immediately reduced to the estimated $470.1 million cash value.
The $470.1 million would then be subjected to an effective federal tax of 37%. After the US government takes its roughly $173.9 million cut, the winner would be left with approximately $296.2 million.
That prize could be further reduced through state taxes, as well as costs associated with hiring financial advisors and/or lawyers to advise on the winning payout.
States vary in how they tax lottery wins. Nine states do not levy any tax on lottery wins, while others impose hefty tariffs.
The worst state to win a Mega Millions jackpot in is Maryland, which would subject the $296.2 million jackpot to an 8.95% tax. That would further reduce the net prize by more than $42 million.
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