Mega Millions Jackpot Climbing Toward $300 Million Jackpot

The Mega Millions jackpot is on the rise again, reaching close to $300 million for a drawing to take place this week.

The total jackpot for Friday’s drawing will be an estimated $291 million, with a $157 million lump sum cash option.

This could be the first time this year that Mega Millions reaches $300 million, though the Powerball jackpot has topped the $300 million mark four times already this year.

Last year Mega Millions turned out the biggest jackpot in United States history, a $656 million prize awarded in March 2012 that was split between winners in Maryland, Kansas, and Illinois.

In October the Mega Millions lottery announced a series of changes meant to drive up jackpots but also make the big prizes harder to win. The starting jackpot increased to $15 million from $12 million, and the annuity payout changed to 30 years from 26 years.

The field of numbers also changed, jumping from 1 through 56 to the more challenging 1 through 75. As a result, the odds of winning the jackpot changed to 1 in 259 million from 1 in 176 million.

With higher odds will likely come bigger jackpots, as the Mega Millions is expected to go longer between winners.

While the top prize became more difficult to win, the odds of winning any prize got better, improving from 1 in 40 to 1 in 15. This was in part because of a change in the Mega number field, which once covered balls numbered from 1 to 46 but now just covers 1 through 15.

The last Mega Millions jackpot was won more than two months ago, when a Maryland man won $189 million in the October 1 drawing.

In the most recent drawing there were a handful of winners, including $1 million winners in Florida, Illinois, and two in New York. One Texas Mega Millions ticket won the $1 million prize, but because it had the Megaplier option with a number of five, the total payout was $5 million. Another $1 million Mega Millions ticket was sold in North Carolina with a Megaplier number of three, making the payout $3 million.