Twin jackpots are generating billion-dollar dreams for lottery players as the two biggest multi-state games offer their largest simultaneous winnings ever Friday and Saturday nights.
“For the first time in game history, both Powerball and Mega Millions have advertised jackpots above $400 million at the same time,” the N.C. Education Lottery announced Friday.
In fact, the Mega Millions jackpot will be worth about $450 million if a winner is drawn Friday night. The Powerball jackpot is estimated at $570 million going into Saturday night’s drawing.
Those are the two games with the largest payouts offered by the N.C. Education Lottery, and both are sold in many other states.
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Both games also have been modified in the past couple of years in ways that increased jackpots. That’s the good news for players. The not so good? Those changes also reduced the likelihood of winning the top prize on a given ticket.
Mega Millions changes
Until October, Mega Millions players picked five numbers from 1 to 75 and a Mega number between 1 and 15. The cost of a ticket was $1 and every time the game restarted, the jackpot was reset to $15 million. To win the jackpot, a player has to match all five numbers plus the Mega number.
Under the new rules, tickets are $2 and jackpots reset at $40 million. Players now pick numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega number between 1 and 25.
With the changes, the odds of winning the jackpot are longer, but players have a better chance at snagging smaller prizes that come with matching some – but not all – of the winning numbers.
Powerball was tweaked in October 2015. Players now buy a ticket for $2, $3 if they add Power Play. Players choose five numbers from 1 to 69 and one Powerball number from 1 to 26.
The jackpot goes to a winner who matches the five numbers and the Powerball number, but winners also can win smaller prizes by matching some of the numbers.
Van Denton, spokesman for the N.C. Education Lottery, said big jackpots for the two games tend to see-saw.
“One goes way up, and somebody wins it, and it starts over, and then the other jackpot goes up,” he said. “They’ve never both been this high at the same time.”
Both jackpots have been rolling since October.
Lottery officials say Saturday’s Powerball jackpot, if won, would be the 5th largest in the game’s history. The odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 292 million. Four North Carolina players have won the jackpot since 2006.
The Mega Millions jackpot is the 4th largest in that game’s history. The odds of winning that one are 1 in 302 million. Since North Carolina joined the game, two N.C. players have won jackpots: one in 2010 and one in 2011.
Jimmy Kied has never sold a jackpot winning ticket at Gabe Mart on Jones Franklin Road in Raleigh, but the store has sold several tickets that won smaller prizes, he said. Interest is strong in the current games.
“People are always looking for the big money,” he said.