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All your pressing Mega Millions questions, answered

The Mega Millions jackpot has surpassed $1 billion for the third time in the history of the lottery. This illustration photo shows a Mega Millions lottery ticket in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
Olivier Douliery
AFP via Getty Images
The Mega Millions jackpot has surpassed $1 billion for the third time in the history of the lottery. This illustration photo shows a Mega Millions lottery ticket in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

The Mega Millions lottery is a draw for many who want just that — a chance at winning millions of dollars — but especially when the jackpot balloons to astronomical amounts. As the amount grows, so does the hype, with many rushing to local convenience stores to join in on the gamble.

But if you've never played Mega Millions or even another lottery game, you might not know where to start — or if you even want to play. Here are some things you might want to know before you decide.

The next drawing is Friday at 11 p.m. ET, and folks, this is one of the big ones. The Mega Millions jackpot is at $1.025 billion. It's the third largest jackpot in Mega Millions history and only the third time for the jackpot to be above $1 billion.

Can I play if I'm not a U.S. citizen?

Yes, players do not need to be residents of the United States to win.

Can I buy tickets online?

You can buy tickets online in Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, but you have to register with the local lotteries. Also, if you live in New York, there is Mega Millions subscription available.

As far as other online ticket purchasing goes, you probably want to be cautious and do your best to make sure you're not buying into a scam.

What happens if I'm in a state with no Mega Millions?

Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah do not have Mega Millions, but that doesn't mean you can't play if you live there. If you buy your ticket elsewhere and win you'll just have to redeem it in the same state, so you'll have to travel to get there.

How do you play?

Tickets are $2 per play. With each ticket, you pick six numbers. The first five numbers are from the range 1 to 70 — these are your white ball numbers. The last number you choose is from 1 to 25 and will be your pick for the gold Mega Ball. Not sure what you pick? There are "Easy Pick" or "Quick Pick" options that randomly generate the numbers as you are purchasing your tickets. Mega Millions also has a random number generator on its site if you want to draw your numbers before you purchase your tickets.

To win the jackpot, all six of your numbers need to match what is drawn. But there are other prize levels that depend on fewer matching numbers.

What are my odds of winning?

At 1 in 302.5 million, your odds of winning are not great. Your odds get marginally better for the other prizes, but in the end, playing the lottery is still a gamble.

What's the difference between the cash payout and the annual payout?

Mega Millions jackpot winnings can be paid out in one of two ways. You can choose to get a lump sum of money right when you win, but it's not as much. For this jackpot, the total is $1.025 billion, but if you want your winnings immediately you'd get $602.5 million in cash.

The other option is an annual payout. With this, you get one payment immediately after winning and then annual payments over the next 29 years. Those payments increase by 5% each time in what Mega Millions says is meant to help "protect winners' lifestyle and purchasing power in periods of inflation."

What's the largest jackpot ever?

The largest jackpot ever won in Mega Millions history was a grand total of $1.537 billion in October 2018. That winning ticket was purchased in South Carolina.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Wynne Davis is a digital reporter and producer for NPR's All Things Considered.

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