The national Mega Millions lottery jackpot is worth an estimated $363 million ahead of a drawing on Tuesday night, making it the fourth-largest in history. Mega Millions jackpots start at $12 million, and drawings are held every Tuesday and Saturday night with the pot rolling over until there is a winner. The largest jackpot ever was worth $390 million.
The probability of hitting all six numbers of a Mega Millions drawing is about 1 in 175 million, but the what-would-I-do-with-all-that-money thought experiment still tantalizes players.
Some examples of exactly how much money is up for grabs Tuesday night (before taxes, of course): a winning ticket would dwarf Alex Rodriguez's 10-year, $250 million contract with the New York Yankees, the largest ever in sports. It would also best James Cameron's earnings in 2010--the year his movie Avatar, the highest-grossing film ever, broke records. The jackpot is worth more than the GDP of some small island nations like Kiribati and Palau.
Mega Millions is played in 42 states, and in most places the winner of the jackpot has the option to receive the winnings in 26 yearly installments or in a lump sum of the approximate present value of the installments. The cash option would be worth about $255 million for the current jackpot.
One certain Mega Millions winner is the federal government, which levies a tax of 25 percent on lotteries of this size.