Mega Millions is one of the most popular and widely played lotteries in the USA and is available in 45 states plus Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The jackpot starts at a guaranteed $20 million and frequently rolls over to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Learn all about the game, including how to play and what the Megaplier is, right here.
How to Play
Mega Millions is simple to play. All you need to do is choose five main numbers from 1 to 70 and one Mega Ball number from 1 to 25. It costs $2 per line and you can fill in a playslip at any licensed lottery retailer.
To win, you must match your chosen numbers with those drawn in the lottery, and the more you match, the bigger your prize. You win the jackpot by matching all five main numbers plus the Mega Ball, while the lowest prize you can win is $2 for just matching the Mega Ball alone. Head over to the Prizes page for more information, including the odds of winning in each category.
Draws take place every Tuesday and Friday in Atlanta, Georgia, at 11.00pm Eastern Time, and are broadcast on television across the United States. If you can’t tune in, go to the Numbers page to see the latest results, or use the Numbers Checker to find out if you’ve won a prize in an instant.
When playing Mega Millions, you can add the Megaplier to your ticket for a chance to multiply any non-jackpot prizes you win by up to five times their original value. It costs an additional $1 per line and all you need to do to play it is mark the option on your playslip. Note that if you’re entering multiple draws in advance on the same ticket, the Megaplier will be added to all of them if you opt in.
On the night of each Mega Millions draw, a number between 2 and 5 is randomly selected. All players who added the Megaplier will see any non-jackpot prizes they win multiplied by this number. For example, if you match three numbers to win $10 and the Megaplier is 4x, you would win $40 in total if you opted in. The value of the jackpot stays the same regardless of whether you played the Megaplier or not.
California is the only state that doesn’t offer the Megaplier. This is because state lottery rules dictate that all prizes must be calculated on a pari-mutuel basis – meaning they are based on the number of entries and how many winners there are – and this is not possible with the Megaplier.
The Prizes page includes some examples of how much your winnings would increase when you play the Megaplier.
Just the Jackpot
Just the Jackpot offers an alternative way to play Mega Millions and is a good way of cutting costs if you’re only interested in winning the big money. You pay $3 for two Mega Millions lines – which would usually cost $4 – and you play to win the jackpot prize only. If you play Just the Jackpot, you must match all five numbers and the Mega Ball to win; you do not win anything for matching five numbers or fewer.
Just the Jackpot is available to play in the following states:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- West Virginia
History of Mega Millions
Mega Millions has gone through several iterations and has seen numerous big winners over its lifetime, and today it stands as one of the biggest and best lotteries in the world.
It all started in 1996, when the predecessor to Mega Millions launched. It was called The Big Game, and tickets for the lottery were initially sold in Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia. The original format was similar to the Mega Millions of today, with players choosing five main numbers and one ‘Big Money Ball’.
In 2000 the game hit the headlines when two ticket holders split a $363 million jackpot. One half of the prize went to a swimming-pool installer from Detroit, Michigan, who won after spending $100 on a hot dog and 98 lottery tickets, and the other half went to a couple who owned a brewing company in Chicago, Illinois.
The nine-figure jackpot generated a lot of interest in multi-state lotteries and in 2002 several states, starting with New York and Ohio, joined the existing Big Game group. At around the same time, the lottery was rebranded to be called The Big Game Mega Millions, and some aspects of the lottery’s current format, such as the Mega Ball, were introduced. In February 2003, The Big Game was dropped from the name, and it became known simply as Mega Millions.
By the end of 2005, 12 state lotteries participated in Mega Millions, but it wasn’t until five years later that the lottery exploded in popularity, mainly thanks to a cross-sell expansion that allowed states to sell tickets for both Powerball and Mega Millions. Up to that point, they had only been able to sell one or the other, but after the New Jersey State Lottery sought permission to run both games, an agreement with the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) – the entity that facilitates and owns the rights to Powerball – was reached. The MUSL’s 23 member states began selling Mega Millions tickets on January 31st 2010, taking the total number of participating states to 35. By the end of 2014, the number of participants had risen to 46.
Mega Millions has gone through a number of format changes since then, most recently in October 2017, when the pool of main numbers to choose from was reduced from 75 to 70 and the Mega Ball pool was increased from 15 to 25. The idea, the operators said, was to increase the number of millionaires created by making it easier to match five numbers, while also creating larger and more exciting jackpots. The guaranteed minimum jackpot amount more than doubled at the same time, increasing from $15 million to $40 million, making it one of the largest starting jackpots in the world.
The changes had the desired effect when a new record was set for the largest Mega Millions jackpot on 23rd October 2018. The top prize grew rapidly to $1.53 billion before one winning ticket matched all five main numbers plus the Mega Ball. The lucky entry was sold in South Carolina, making it the state’s first Mega Millions win.
Mississippi joined Mega Millions in January 2020, making it the 45th state to offer the game and the 48th participant overall. The MS Lottery launched in November 2019 with scratch-off games and Mega Millions was one of the first draw games to go on sale just a couple of months later.