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Is the $1.28 billion Mega Millions Jackpot the biggest prize ever in the US?

A lucky ticket holder in Illinois scooped the Mega Millions jackpot on Friday, but where did the $1.28bn rank in all-time lottery wins?

Where does Friday's Mega Millions jackpot rank in all-time lottery wins?
MediaNews Group/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty ImagesGetty

A lucky punter in the US reportedly scooped the $1.28 billion Mega Millions jackpot in Friday’s draw, although official confirmation is still pending. The winning numbers were 13, 36, 45, 57, and 67, with a Mega Ball of 14, and the ticket-holder is in line for a life-changing windfall when it is handed over, although the full $1.28bn won’t be handed over in full. The Mega Millions lottery has safeguards in place for winners and if the player opts for the full shebang, it will be paid out in installments over the course of 30-odd years. Needless to say, the lucky ticket holder won’t be struggling to make it to the end of the month but won’t be able to but an island and an army of robotic flunkies in the finest tradition of James Bond either. Still, if they opt for the cash-up-front offer they will still find themselves among the richest people in the US quite comfortably with a take-home of $747.2 million, although the IRS will also be rubbing its hands together at the prospect of a fair old chunk of that.

Illinois scoop second-largest in Mega Millions history

Friday’s jackpot was the second-largest Mega Millions scoop in history and according to the official website, the record win for the game remains the world’s largest lottery prize ever won on a single ticket at $1.537 billion, with a cash value of $877.8m. That prize was won on October 23, 2018 by a player in South Carolina.

The holder of the winning ticket from Friday’s draw will move into third on the all-time US list of largest lottery wins, overtaking the previous bronze medal-holder, Mega Millions ticket from 22 January, 2021, which carried a jackpot of $1.050 billion, with a lump-sum cash value of $776.6 before tax.

However, it was not the biggest lottery win in the US. That honor goes to the Powerball draw of 13 January, 2016, which was worth a staggering $1.586 billion. Unlike Friday’s Mega Millions though it was split between three winning tickets bought by couples in Florida, Tennessee and California, who each had the choice of pocketing either $533 in pre-tax winnings if they opted for the annuity or $327.8 as a lump sum.

What’s the biggest lottery prize in the world?

Although the biggest single or low single-digit multiple-winner cash prizes in history are all in the United States, by far the biggest lottery in the world is Spain’s El Gordo (the fat one) Christmas lottery. In 2020, the total cash prize pool stood at €2.38 billion ($2.897 billion). However, the make-up of El Gordo means that a single winning ticket (or décimo) is worth €400,000. That said, often people snap u up a full ticket of 10 décimos among families, workmates, friends or social clubs, meaning that a “full” ticket of 10 décimos worth €4m ($4.09m) is often split between these. The full jackpot is worth €720m but the cash prize pool makes it the biggest cash prize lottery in the world. It is also one that carries slightly less outrageous odds than the Mega Millions. El Gordo players have a 1/100,000 chance of scooping a winning ticket, compared to odds of one in 302 million (1/302,000,000) of winning the $1.28bn jackpot in Friday’s Mega Millions Jackpot.

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