Mega Millions $1.1 Billion Jackpot Among Largest Prizes Ever

DES MOINES, Iowa — At over $1 billion, the Mega Millions jackpot is among the largest lottery prizes ever up for grabs, making it the latest focus of lotteries that have been conducted in the U.S. and around the world for centuries.

There have been only two winners that are bigger than the huge Friday Night Jackpot. Although they offer lesser payouts than the global lotteries, these are integrated in to daily life and culture in many countries.

“There are a ton of lotteries throughout the world,” said Bill Coley, president of the Institute of Responsible Gaming, Lotteries and Sports at Miami University. “It’s the mystiques of mathematics. For a small fee, you can give the chance for one person to earn a $1 billion revenue stream. It’s pretty exciting.”

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The U.S. Lotteries were initially similar to European lotteries. In 1776, one of these was set up in order to fund the Revolutionary War.

European lotteries are still very popular. Eurojackpot awarded a prize of $120million euro (£121.9 million), to an individual in Denmark last week. A prize worth $230million euros was recently given out by Euromillions to a player from the United Kingdom.

William Hogarth’s engraving titled “The Lottery” was made in 1721 to criticize the British government’s choice to use lotteries as an income source.

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Arjan van’t Veer, the secretary general of the European Lotteries Association, noted there also are numerous national lotteries.

Among the most celebrated is Spain’s El Gordo (The Fat One).

Although it isn’t held until Dec. 22, a large promotion campaign began July 5. The effort always includes promotional videos, such as one this summer featuring a know-it-all who is exposed as a know-nothing because he doesn’t know where tickets are sold.

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The U.S. Mega Millions and Powerball games can offer bigger individual prizes, but El Gordo’s 2.4 billion euros ($2.4 billion) is the biggest game for total prizes. About 70% of the lottery’s proceeds pay for prizes, with the remainder going to the government.

Top prize is four million euros (or $4 million). But the standard ticket bought by people is 20-euro “decimo,” or one-tenth of a full ticket, so that people with the winning number on their décimo get 400,000 euros ($406,340), or about 330,000 euros ($335,268) after taxes.

Paris circa 1900: The draw of the Lottery

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Spain founded the national lottery during the reigns of King Carlos III in 1763. The lottery was never suspended despite wars or other economic and political crises.

Purchasing and sharing decimos — especially in the run-up to Christmas — is a tradition among families, friends, co-workers and in bars and sports and social clubs. Many people gather outside of lottery offices in cold or rain to buy winning tickets.

Following the announcement of the winners, there are televised celebrations at bars and streets, where people dance, sing, and drink sparkling wine uncorked.

There also are numerous large lotteries in Asia, such as the Japan Jumbo Draw as well as Japan’s Loto 6 and Loto 7, and the Ultra Lotto in the Philippines.

David Schwartz is a Professor and Gaming History at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He noted that lotteries are well-known for their simplicity and potential huge wins.

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“The driving force behind lotteries is that one ticket isn’t that expensive but you have a chance for a huge, huge payoff,” Schwartz said. “I think people have an understanding there are pretty slim odds, but on the other hand, somebody has to win.”

Mega Millions is open to visitors to the USA. Residents of Canada, Mexico and Mexico live near the border and have been able to make the short journey to purchase tickets. You can also buy tickets online via private companies. However, U.S. lottery officials warn that this is at your own risk.

And keep in mind, Ohio Lottery spokesman Michael Bycko said, that people who aren’t U.S. residents are still on the hook for federal and possibly state taxes, depending on where they play.

Giles reporting from Madrid

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