US lottery jackpots climb to combined US$2.2 billion

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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.

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.

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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)