Mega Millions jackpot, already at $586M, climbs toward new record
By Matthew Santoni
Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 8:48 a.m.
Players have about as much chance of winning the enormous Mega Millions jackpot on Tuesday as they do of meeting the real Santa Claus.
That hasn't deterred the millions of players snapping up tickets at an accelerating pace for a chance to win a payoff that the game's operators say could rise above $1 billion by Christmas Eve. That's if nobody beats the 1-in-259-millon odds on Tuesday or Friday when the next sets of numbers are drawn.
“We had predicted last week that if we are still on the same roll on Christmas Eve, we'll definitely be over a billion (dollars),” said Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and Mega Millions' lead director.
“It's a cheap way to dream,” said Joe Gordon, 47, of Elliott as he picked up a pair of tickets on Monday at the Quick Stop in Bloomfield. “I know I'm not going to win, but for two bucks I can dream for a couple of days.”
Jeff Law also has dreams.
“The odds are astronomical,” said Law, 46, of Sugar Top, who was purchasing tickets at the Quick Stop. “Just the chance to win — I could help a lot of people out, pay some bills off and definitely leave Pittsburgh for someplace that's warm. That's worth the investment of a couple bucks. ... There are worse things people can spend their money on.”
Strong weekend ticket sales raised the official estimate for Tuesday's jackpot to $586 million. Payout from the jackpot would be $316.5 million before taxes.
In 21 drawings since Oct. 1, no one has won, and the jackpot is quickly approaching last year's record $656 million monster.
The large Mega Millions prize is the product of a major game revamp in October that dramatically changed the odds of winning the jackpot from 1 in 176 million to 1 in 259 million.
Tulane University estimates that the odds of being hit and dying from an asteroid or comet are about 1 in 250,000; dying in an airplane crash at 1 in 30,000; and dying in a shark attack at 1 in 8 million. Vegas Insider put the latest odds of the Steelers winning this season's Super Bowl at one in 650.
The jackpot, which is the fourth-largest in the nation's history, has benefited from heavy sales in the past several days.
Otto noted that the higher the jackpot, the higher the sales. For example, when the jackpot was $99 million on Nov. 5, lottery officials sold just over $20 million worth of tickets. For Friday's $425 million jackpot, $168 million worth of tickets were sold.
Otto said that she expects sales to spike on Tuesday before the drawing.
“I think we'll be very close to the record and maybe even surpass it,” Otto said, although she acknowledged sales are difficult to predict.
“Lotto players are procrastinators. They tend to buy on the day of the draw,” she said.
By the time of Tuesday's drawing, game operators predict 65 percent of possible number combinations will have been sold, said Pennsylvania Lottery spokesman Gary Miller. That doesn't mean there's a 65 percent chance a winning ticket will be drawn, but it roughly correlates, he said.
In Pennsylvania, about 35.8 million tickets have been sold during this 10-week rollover run. That translates into $40 million in sales when factoring in the extra $1 “Megaplier” option on some tickets, which allows players to increase their non-jackpot winnings.
Miller declined to comment on how high the jackpot could rise before a winner is drawn.
“The PA Lottery won't speculate on that,” he said. “We live in the now.”
Otto said officials have never had such a huge jackpot at this time of year, and it's unclear how holiday shoppers are driving sales.
“To have that kind of money on the line the week before Christmas, we've never had that happen before,” she said. “What fun.”
The Associated Press contributed. Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Under the Hood: A chance to take top cars for a spin
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Alle-Kiski Valley economic development group honored for police training
- PennDOT wants Rock Airport in West Deer to remain open
- South Connellsville accepts police chief’s resignation
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- Renter tries to battle New Kensington house fire
- Mulch pitched for Vanderbilt park’s playground; surface proposed under swings, slide, climbing bars
- Get off beaten herb path