US lottery jackpots climb to combined US$2.2 billion

REUTERS: Who wants to be a billionaire?

For US$2 a ticket, lottery players have a chance to be among the richest people in the world if they beat the long-shot odds of 1 in 303 million to win the Mega Millions jackpot of US$1.6 billion Tuesday night.

A customer holds Mega Millions tickets at a newsstand in midtown Manhattan in New York

The sum reached a world record for lottery jackpots after there were no winning numbers for the US$1 billion prize on Friday.

About 280 million tickets were sold for Friday’s drawing, with about 60 percent of all winning number combinations covered, said Seth Elkin, a spokesman for the Maryland Lottery.

Tickets sold for Tuesday’s drawing are expected to cover 75 percent of all possible number combinations, he said.

However, the odds of getting killed by a shark are higher than winning the lottery, with the International Shark Attack File putting the chance at 1 in 3.7 million in a lifetime.

If a player hits all six numbers to win the jackpot, they can opt for an immediate cash payment of US$904 million or receive the US$1.6 billion prize over 29 years.

The instant cash payout in US$100 bills would reach over 3,200 feet (975 meters), taller than any building in the world.

Wednesday’s Powerball lottery prize stands at US$620 million, making it the fifth largest jackpot in U.S. history, after no one got all six numbers in Saturday’s drawing.

The lump sum cash payout is estimated at US$354.3 million.

The current Mega Millions jackpot beats the previous record, a US$1.586 billion jackpot for a Powerball drawing in 2016.

If there is more than one winner, the jackpot would be divided proportionately, as happened in 2012 with a Mega Millions jackpot of US$656 million, a lottery official said.

READ  New Yorkers mourn death of Anthony Bourdain

Mega Millions tickets are sold in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. Several states allow online ticket purchases, but they prohibit out-of-state and foreign purchases.

Both lottery jackpots have been increased recently by rule changes that have reduced the odds of winning. The odds of winning Mega Millions were lowered a year ago from 1 in 259 million to generate larger prizes.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Paul Simao)