Mega Millions History

Mega Millions launched in August 1996 under the name The Big Game and the first draw took place on 6 September 1996. At that time only six states - Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Virginia - participated in the draws.

Playing Mega Millions became increasingly popular among lottery fans and an additional weekly draw on Tuesdays was added in February 1998. As the Big Game evolved, it added more numbers in its guess matrix and a cash payout option for its jackpot prize. New Jersey became the seventh state to offer tickets starting in May 1999.

mega millions the big game

In May 2002, the lottery was rebranded as Mega Millions and the states of New York and Ohio joined the consortium. Additional states that joined Mega Millions in those years were Washington (2002), Texas (2003), and California (2005).

After it joined Mega Millions, Texas began offering its players the Megaplier option, which increased the value of non-jackpot prizes. Initially, the Megaplier feature was only available in Texas, but following the cross-selling agreement with Powerball in January 2010, the other lotteries began offering Megaplier as well. Today Megaplier is available in all participating states, with the exception of California.


Cross-Selling Agreement with Powerball

In January 2010, Mega Millions made an historic cross-selling agreement with Powerball, enabling participating states to sell tickets to both lotteries. As a result of the agreement, the number of states offering Mega Millions tickets rose to 43. In addition, tickets became available in Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands.

The Mega Millions lottery made history in March 2012 by awarding what was, at the time, the largest jackpot prize ever. An incredible $656 million jackpot was split between three players from Kansas, Illinois, and Maryland. This jackpot retained its world record status until January 2016, when Powerball awarded a $1.586 billion prize.

Mega Millions changed its 5/56 + 1/46 guess matrix to a revised 5/75 + 1/15 format starting 22 October 2013. As part of the game's changes, the minimum starting jackpot was set at $15 million with rollovers of at least $5 million. The lottery's second prize was raised from $250,000 to $1 million. Megaplier was also changed with the addition of a 5x multiplier, which meant that a player could win a second-tier prize as high as $5 million.

Mega Millions awarded a $536 million jackpot in its draw on 8 July 2016, which was the highest cash value lottery prize ever won by a single player at the time.


Lottery Changes Lead to Historic Jackpot

Mega Millions introduced changes in October 2017 intended to boost the lottery’s popularity and the size of Mega Millions jackpots. The changes included a revised guess range matrix (5/70 + 1/25); a starting guaranteed jackpot of $40 million (instead of the previous $15 million); and increased secondary prizes. The price of a Mega Millions ticket doubled from $1 to $2 as part of the game’s new format.

Starting with the October 2017 format changes, participating states were given the option of offering Just the Jackpot. For the ticket price of $3, players would have two chances of winning the jackpot, but they would not be eligible for secondary prizes. Not all participating state lotteries offer Just the Jackpot.

In its historic draw on 23 October 2018, Mega Millions awarded its highest jackpot prize ever - $1.537 billion. The winner, who purchased their ticket in South Carolina and elected to remain anonymous, came forward to claim their prize in March 2019. The winner chose the cash option of a one-time payment of $877,784,124, setting a world record for being the largest lottery prize ever won by a single ticket.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the Mega Millions Consortium has adjusted the game’s starting jackpot and will determine the amounts of subsequent starting jackpots and jackpot increases on a drawing-by-drawing basis,” the lottery said in a statement at the beginning of April 2020. Since that time and until further notice, the starting jackpot was reset from $40 million to $20 million, and jackpot increases were set at a minimum of $2 million.


Mega Millions timeline

The Record
Mega Millions Jackpot

In a historic draw on 23 October 2018, Mega Millions awarded a $1.537 billion jackpot. While that prize fell just short of passing Powerball's record $1.586 billion jackpot dating back to January 2016, Mega Millions did set a record of its own. A single lucky ticket, purchased in South Carolina, won the entire $1.5 billion prize. This is the highest lottery prize ever won by a single ticket. The winner, who chose to remain anonymous, came forward in March 2019 to collect their prize.

Mega Millions awarded its second billion-dollar jackpot in its draw on 22 January 2021. After a record 37 draws with no jackpot winner, a prize of $1.05 billion ($776.6 million cash) was won by a four member Michigan lottery club. A representative and attorney for the club came forward to claim their winnings on 12 March 2021. The group had decided to go for $766 million lump sum amount instead of receiving the full amount in annuity payments. This jackpot is the second largest prize in Mega Millions' history, and the third largest lottery prize ever.

Click for full details of the biggest Mega Millions jackpots in history.

Perhaps one day soon a lottery player from outside the US will get into the history books - winning Mega Millions by playing this exciting game online at theLotter!

Learn everything you need to know about this lottery by reading our Mega Millions Guide. Good luck playing Mega Millions!