US lottery jackpot tops $1B, fourth highest ever

The jackpot for the upcoming drawing of the Mega Millions lottery has ballooned to more than $1 billion, the fourth highest prize ever, its US organizer announced Wednesday.

The Mega Millions grand prize has been steadily growing, along with players’ dreams of fortune, for over three months, with no one correctly guessing the six magic numbers in 29 previous drawings.

Friday’s estimated jackpot sits at just above $1 billion, Mega Millions announced in a press release.

That represents an increase of nearly $200 million over Tuesday’s top prize, which attracted so many players that the Mega Millions website was down for over two hours, the group said.

Todd Graves, the founder and CEO of fast-food chicken chain Raising Cane’s announced on Twitter that he had bought 50,000 tickets for the Tuesday drawing and planned to share any prize money with his 50,000 employees.

Since none of those tickets hit the jackpot, the company plans to again shell out $100,000 for the next drawing, co-CEO A.J. Kumaran told CNN on Wednesday.

The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 303 million — much higher than the one-in-a-million chance of being struck by lightning, according to US government data.

Friday’s total is about half a billion dollars less than the world record, set in January 2016 by America’s other national lotto, the Powerball, though that sum was split among three winners.

The second-highest prize ever — and the highest won by a single person — was in an October 2018 Mega Millions drawing for $1.5 billion.

The $1 billion figure for Friday’s drawing represents the total amount a winner would be entitled to if they accepted the prize split up over a 30-year annuity.

If the lucky person decided instead to take the winnings as a one-time cash payment, the total amount would decrease to $602.5 million, Mega Millions estimates.

But don’t forget the taxes.

After federal taxes, the remaining total for Friday’s all-cash jackpot would be $379.6 million, according to lottery tracking site usamega.com.

Most US states then impose their own taxes on lottery winnings, although populous California and Florida, among others, do not.

Regardless of locale, winners are generally advised to immediately seek assistance from financial advisors, even before claiming the prize money.

Financial planner Robert Pagliarini also recommends that big winners “step outside the craziness of the situation for a moment.”

“Make a list of Who and What you love about your life that you don’t want to change,” he advised in a blog post. (AFP)

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