Winning ticket in $1.6bn US Mega Millions lottery jackpot

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
There had been queues for lottery tickets across the US

A lottery ticket holder in South Carolina has scooped the largest jackpot in US history.

The jackpot numbers were: 28, 70, 5, 62, 65, with a Mega Ball of 5. The odds of choosing those numbers were said to be one in more than 300 million.

People had been lining up at service stations and stores nationwide for a chance to win the huge prize.

Tickets for the Mega Millions draw are sold in 44 US states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands and there had not been a top prize winner since July.

"The moment we've been waiting for finally arrived, and we couldn't be more excited," said Gordon Medenica, lead director of Mega Millions Group.

"This is truly a historic occasion. We're so happy for the winner, and we know the South Carolina Education Lottery can't wait to meet the lucky ticket holder."

But who that lucky winner is may remain a mystery to the public. South Carolina is one of eight states where lottery winners can keep their anonymity.

What happens now?

The winner can decide to take a cash payout of $913m after tax, or opt to have it paid out in instalments over 29 years.

Financial advisers have debated which option is better, and factors to consider include where a person lives, how much money they need each year, investment return rates and changes in federal taxes.

Those who think the US top tax rate will drop over time should choose instalments. Those who do not trust themselves to avoid frivolous spending should also go for instalments, experts say.

But, if a winner has the ability to invest the lump sum properly, that would create a heftier nest egg.

Media caption,
Americans are rushing to buy lottery tickets for the chance to win $1.6bn

The huge jackpot had lottery ticket buyers speculating on what they would do with the money if they won. Some dreamt of buying an island or a fast car, others of opening shops and creating jobs.

The lottery firm said Tuesday's draw saw 36 people win second prize, and 419 win the $10,000 third prize.

Mega Millions was created in 2002 and has seen a number of changes to the rules over the years that have reduced the odds of winning, leading to larger jackpots.

What's the probability of winning Mega Millions?

Anthony Masters, a Statistical Ambassador from the Royal Statistical Society, says the probability of winning a Mega Millions jackpot is one in 300 million.

It's more likely…

  • To flip a fair coin 28 times and get heads every time (one in 268 million)
  • For two people to randomly dial the same eight digit phone number (one in 100 million).

And it's far more likely…

  • To roll a six on a fair die 10 times in a row (one in 60 million)
  • To die in a lightning strike (one in 114,000)

Of course, winning the lottery with a single ticket is very unlikely indeed, but of course the likelihood of someone winning the jackpot is high.

Top five US previous jackpot wins

  • $1.58bn: A Powerball win in 2016. The prize was split three ways by ticket holders from California, Florida and Tennessee
  • $758.7m: Won in 2017 by mother-of-two Mavis Wanczyk from Massachusetts. She said she had picked the numbers based on relatives' birthdays
  • $656m: A Mega Millions top prize win in 2012, shared between three winners who purchased tickets in Maryland, Kansas and Illinois
  • $648m: Another Mega Millions win, this time in 2013 by two ticket holders; a woman in Georgia and a man in California
  • $590.5m: A Powerball jackpot won by an 84-year-old Florida woman