The Meg Millions jackpot could soon make someone a billionaire.
The multi-state lottery is already approaching $600 million after a long stretch without a winner. After the Mega Millions numbers found no winner on Friday, the jackpot for the lottery reached $550 million, and on Monday the total jumped again to $586 million. If there is no winner on Tuesday the prize will make another significant jump to $800 million.
If the bi-weekly drawings continue to produce no big winners, the Mega Millions jackpot is on pace to reach $1 billion just in time for the holidays.
“We’ve never had a jackpot at this level in December leading into the holidays,” said Mega Millions official Paula Otto. “If we keep rolling, we could well be at a billion dollars going into Christmas.”
The current $586 million Mega Millions jackpot is already the second-biggest prize of all time, trailing only the $656 million prize in April 2012.
The giant total for this week’s Mega Millions jackpot is no coincidence. In October the lottery announced a series of changes that made the drawings more difficult to win but also served to make for much bigger jackpots. The starting jackpot raised to $15 million from $12 million, and the annuity payout jumped to 30 years from 26 years.
The field of numbers also grew, going from balls numbered 1 through 56 to a more challenging 1 through 75. This caused the odds of winning the jackpot to jump from 1 in 176 million to 1 in 259 million.
To give people a little something in return, Mega Millions made it easier to win the smaller prizes. Players now have an overall 1 in 15 chance of winning some kind of prize, an increase from the 1 in 40 odds before the changes were made.
The changes have accomplished their purpose. There hasn’t been a Mega Millions jackpot won for more than three months, when a Maryland man won $189 million in the October 1 drawing. The next winner could be a billionaire.