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Mega Millions announces new jackpot estimate just hours before drawing

With just hours to go until Friday's Mega Millions drawing, the estimated jackpot has gone up even higher.
Credit: AP
FILE - A customer fills out a lottery ticket in Palo Alto, California, on March 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

WASHINGTON — A $1.28 billion lottery prize will be on the line during Friday night's drawing for Mega Millions

The drawing will happen at 11 p.m. Eastern time (10 p.m. Central/8 p.m. Pacific) and takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. Just hours before the drawing, it was announced the estimated jackpot had grown from $1.1 billion to $1.28 billion, with a cash option of $747.2 million. 

While we'll quickly know the six numbers that are drawn late Friday night, it may take a couple hours before lottery officials confirm whether or not there's been a winner. Mega Millions said its website crashed for two hours after Tuesday's drawing because of record-breaking website traffic when people rushed to check if they had picked the winning numbers. 

The massive jackpot is the nation's third-largest prize of any lottery game in the U.S. and is the result of 29 consecutive drawings without anyone matching all of the game's six numbers. The last time someone hit the Mega Millions jackpot was April 15.

If no one wins the Mega Millions jackpot Friday night, lottery officials expect the prize will grow to $1.7 billion for the next drawing Tuesday, making it the nation’s largest lottery prize.

What are the odds of winning Mega Millions? How much do tickets cost? 

Before rushing out to spend $2 on a ticket, keep in mind that the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are a staggering 1 in 302.5 million, regardless of how big the prize grows. 

You do increase your odds of winning if you buy more tickets but before laying down $100 for 50 tries, keep in mind that in the big scheme of things, 50 chances out of 302.5 million isn’t much better than one. For example, the founder of a fast food chain bought 50,000 tickets for Tuesday's drawing and came up short. 

The $1.28 billion prize is for players who get their winnings through an annuity, paid annually over 29 years. Nearly all winners take the cash option, which for Friday’s drawing is an estimated $747.2 million.

When can you buy Mega Millions tickets until?

It can vary in some places, but the general rule is that sales close at 10:45 p.m. EST on Friday, July 29. Be sure to check with local retailers though. 

If no one wins the jackpot Friday night, the prize will grow even larger ahead of the next drawing Tuesday night.

There has only been one Mega Millions jackpot that has been larger to date. A $1.537 billion prize was won in Oct. 2018 by a South Carolina woman who was visiting Greenville and decided to purchase a ticket, according to the lottery. As allowed by South Carolina law, the woman has remained anonymous and picked the one-time cash option of $877,784,124. That winning ticket remains the world's largest lottery prize ever won by a single ticket, according to the lottery's announcement.

What are the top 10 biggest Mega Millions jackpots? 

1. $1.537 billion - 10/23/2018
2. $1.28 billion - 7/29/2022 - Estimated
3. $1.050 billion - 1/22/2021
4. $656 million - 3/30/2012
5. $648 million - 12/17/2013
6. $543 million - 7/24/2018
7. $536 million - 7/8/2016
8. $533 million - 3/30/2018
9. $522 million -6/7/2019
10. $516 million - 5/21//2021

What are the 10 largest US lottery jackpots ever won?

1. $1.586 billion, Powerball, Jan. 13, 2016 (three tickets, from California, Florida, Tennessee)

2. $1.537 billion, Mega Millions, Oct. 23, 2018 (one ticket, from South Carolina)

3. $1.05 billion, Mega Millions, Jan. 22, 2021 (one ticket, from Michigan)

4. $768.4 million, Powerball, March 27, 2019 (one ticket, from Wisconsin)

5. $758.7 million, Powerball, Aug. 23, 2017 (one ticket, from Massachusetts)

6. $731.1 million, Powerball, Jan. 20, 2021 (one ticket, from Maryland)

7. $699.8 million, Powerball, Oct. 4, 2021 (one ticket, from California)

8. $687.8 million, Powerball, Oct. 27, 2018 (two tickets, from Iowa and New York)

9. $656 million, Mega Millions, March 30, 2012 (three tickets, from Kansas, Illinois and Maryland)

10. $648 million, Mega Millions, Dec. 17, 2013 (two tickets, from California and Georgia)

Mega Millions is played on Tuesdays and Fridays in 45 states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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