The next Mega Millions draw is tonight, with a jackpot of at least $1.1 billion

With a Mega Millions jackpot estimated at at least $1.1 billion up for grabs, excitement was mounting as Friday’s draw approached at 11 p.m. EDT. The cash payout for this grand prize would be $648.2 million.

The prize topped $1 billion this week, which is only the third time the jackpot has crossed that threshold in the game’s two-decade history. The game’s current jackpot is almost as large as record amounts won in 2018 and 2021. In those years, players whose ticket numbers matched the numbers drawn by Mega Millions administrators received around $1.05 billion and $1.5 billion.

The current jackpot race started in April. Friday night drawing very close calls in the last draw on Tuesday.

Mega Millions said nine people nearly won the jackpot, which at the time was $830 million, but fell slightly short because their tickets contained the first five winning numbers without the sixth and final digit. Megaball. Another 156 people had bought tickets with the correct Mega Ball number, but only four of the first five, according to the lottery.

One winner from the first group and three dozen from the second bought their tickets with the game’s Megaplier feature – guaranteeing a bigger prize for an additional cost per ticket – which boosted their respective prizes from $1 million to $3 million and $10,000 to $30,000. Following the draw, Mega Millions reported an “unprecedented” increase in traffic to its website, where people can enter for a chance to win in the next one. The lottery said visitor overload crushed the site on Tuesday night.

“We look forward to the growing jackpot,” said Pat McDonald, senior manager of the Mega Millions Consortium and director of the Ohio Lottery, in a statement released ahead of Friday’s billion-dollar draw. “Watching the jackpot accumulate over a period of months and reach the billion dollar mark is truly breathtaking. We encourage customers to keep their game balanced and enjoy the ride. Someone is going to win.”

The odds of getting this year’s Mega Millions payout are slim, and the lottery recently issued a warning to players who have urged them to be aware of scammers who seek to fraudulently collect money by impersonating official representatives of Mega Millions who advertise a fake win by phone, text or email and demand a fee in return .

But for people who legitimately hold winning tickets, protection against scams is one reason some financial advisers have suggested they remain anonymous when claiming their winnings. This is only possible in a handful of US states, as the majority require lottery participants to publicly disclose their identity when they win. There are additional laws in some places that allow lottery winners to claim their prizes through legal entities, like trusts, that hold assets, but most states require anyone with a Mega ticket Millions winner reveals his personal information when signing the check.

In addition to potential choices regarding anonymity when claiming rewards, players who win the Mega Millions jackpot can choose to collect the money in installments or all at once. Lottery participants who opt for payment would receive this sum in annual payments over approximately 30 years, so the majority opt for the immediate cash option instead.

The decision likely depends on a number of personal factors for each winner, including their age, current financial situation and how their money could be raised by recipients, if needed. A significant portion of the winnings will go to federal taxes in both cases, but state laws regarding lottery prizes and how they are taxed, if any, could also make some type of financial reward more favorable.

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