Mega Millions: Are your jackpot odds worse when more people play?

Your Money

The Mega Millions jackpot has surpassed the billion-dollar mark for the third time in the history of the game. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) — With a jackpot close to $1 billion, thousands of Americans are now vying to be the first big Mega Millions winner of 2023. But are your chances of landing the top prize getting progressively worse as more and more tickets are sold ahead of Friday’s drawing?

The short answer is no. To explain, we have to use a little bit of mathematical thinking.

Your chances of winning the Mega Millions jackpot is 1 in 302,575,350, according to game officials. Those odds are the same regardless if you are one of the millions playing or the only person with a ticket.

It’s because you’re playing for certain numbers and not against other Mega Millions ticket holders, Rong Chen, a distinguished professor of statistics at the Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences, explained to NewsNation affiliate WPIX amid the Powerball jackpot craze last fall.

If Mega Millions entailed putting every player’s name in a hat to determine who would win the jackpot, your odds would be dependent on how many people are playing. If it’s just you and another person, you would have a 1 in 2 chance of winning. If it’s you and 1,593,201 players, then your odds would be 1 in 1,593,202.

But that isn’t the case. Instead, Mega Millions players are trying to match the six numbers drawn every Tuesday and Friday. All combinations of those numbers have the same chance of landing the jackpot – roughly 1 in 302.6 million – according to Chen. If you have an extra $600 million laying around, you could purchase nearly every possible number combination and increase your own odds of winning the jackpot.

However, as more people play Mega Millions, your odds of splitting the jackpot increase. That can, in turn, lower your jackpot payout. For example, a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot was won by three separate tickets in 2016. Instead of having a chance at a cash payout of $745.9 million, the three winners were given prizes of roughly $533 million each, which equates to a lump sum payout of about $327.8 million.

The next Mega Millions drawing is scheduled for 11 p.m. ET Friday. Mega Millions is played in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Tickets are $2 and there are a total of nine ways to win a prize.

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