Americans across the country will be tuning in Tuesday to catch the winning numbers for a massive Mega Millions jackpot that could net one lucky winner nearly half a billion dollars. Most players will not win, but it's good for Uncle Sam. Since the nation's first lottery was founded in 1964, lotteries have raised more than $400 billion for government programs by taking dollars from unlucky players.
Feeling lucky? Watch a live stream of the drawing Tuesday night here and read on for more details about the game.
What is Mega Millions?
Mega Millions lottery tickets cost $1.00 and are sold in 44 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Players pick six numbers, including one mega ball ranging from 1 to 15. A random number generator provided by Mega Millions can be found here. The site's disclaimer states that the lottery is for entertainment. In other words, this isn't a wise retirement plan. These states don't have Mega Millions: California, Delaware, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
How much do I stand to win?
The jackpot has grown from $15 million in March to an estimated $454 million, the third-largest Mega Millions jackpot and the seventh-largest lottery pot in U.S. history. The largest haul was the $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot in January, which was shared between three winners.
What happens if I win?
That's probably not going to happen, since the odds of winning are one in 259 million. But let's be optimistic. If you win the jack pot, the earnings are paid out over 30 payments of varying sums, with each payment being 5 percent larger than the previous one. You can alternatively take home about $313 million if you choose to get your winnings in one lump sum payment. Either way, don't expect to take home the total value of the drawing. All prizes are subject to income taxes.
What happens if I lose?
Sorry about that, pal. But if you want to risk it again, you can get a new ticket and try later this week if a winner isn't announced. Mega Millions drawings are held Tuesday and Friday at 11:00 p.m. EDT in Atlanta, Georgia. Each state determines its cut-off time to purchase tickets.