The numbers will be drawn live at 11 p.m. ET on Friday, and residents can play in 45 states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
That comes less than two months after a player in California won a record $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot. Players also won lottery prizes topping $1 billion earlier in 2022 and in 2021.
“It’s thrilling to see the Mega Millions jackpot grow throughout the holidays, and now, into the New Year,” said Pat McDonald, the director of the Ohio Lottery who also leads the state lotteries overseeing the Mega Millions game.
The credit for the big prizes is actually due to math — and more difficult odds.
In the fall of 2017, lottery officials approved changes to Mega Millions that significantly lengthened the odds from one in 258.9 million to one in 302.6 million. They made similar changes to Powerball in October 2015, worsening the odds from one in 175.2 million to one in 292.2 million.
Mega Millions explained that players may pick up to six numbers from two separate pools of numbers — five different numbers from 1 to 70 (the white balls) and one number from 1 to 25 (the gold Mega Ball). Players also have the option to randomize play, where the game auto-selects numbers randomly for them.
The idea was that by making jackpots less common, ticket revenue could build up week after week, creating giant prizes that would attract attention and pull in more players who had grown blasé about $100 million or $200 million top prizes.
A player wins the jackpot by matching all six winning numbers in a drawing.
In August 2021, Powerball also added a third weekly drawing, which enabled the jackpot to roll over and grow even more quickly as people had more chances to play, and lose. Mega Millions has stuck with the two weekly drawings.
Thanks to those moves, nine of the top 10 largest lottery prizes have been won since 2017.
Of course, those uber-rich winners aren’t quite as wealthy as it would seem.
That’s because the advertised jackpots are for winners who agree to take their money over 29 years in an annuity. Winners almost always choose the cash option, which for Friday’s drawing would be $483.5 million.
For those interested in playing, tickets cost $2 per play, and players can buy tickets up until 15 minutes before the drawing.
The Associated Press’s Scott McFetridge and Margaret Stafford contributed to this report.