Overview:

With almost-impossible odds of 1 in nearly 302.6 million per ticket, how many will you be buying?.

Today, the Mega Millions multi-state lottery will soar past an estimated jackpot of $1.1 billion, that’s nine zeroes, making this evening’s draw one of the largest lottery payouts in history.

This marks the third time inside of six months that a lottery draw inside the U.S. has surpassed a billion dollars. In July, one Mega Millions ticket sold in Illinois won the $1.337 billion draw and just two months ago, a single Powerball ticket sold in Altadena claimed the $2.04 billion prize, setting a new world record.

Despite near-impossible odds of 1 in 302,575,350, more people are likely to “have a go” when the rollover reaches Biblical proportions like this, which itself pushes the potential final total even higher. Of course, even the physic ability of guessing the right combination of numbers drawn doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get every penny of the payout to yourself.

The Lottery is now over $1B

Andrew Swift, a mathematics professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, described it another way, noting the odds of winning for a person who buys a single ticket in either game are a little worse than flipping a coin and getting heads 28 straight times.

So, what would you do with a billion dollars burning a hole in your pocket? You could pay for a trip into space and still have spare change. Seats on either Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo or Blue Origin’s New Shepard cost between $250,000 and $500,000, but that with kind of wad in your wallet, you could buy a trip to the International Space Station— a snip at just $50million a seat—so you could bring the whole family.

You could hang Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa over the mantelpiece, currently valued at between $850 and $900 million; a vintage 1989 Lamborghini Countach could be parked in your garage for less than $700,000 or if you’re thinking bigger, you could just start your own air force with a squadron of F-35B fighter jets at about $135.8 million a pop per unit (price includes ground support, spare parts and maintenance).

Suddenly, property in Bel Air would seem inexpensive, but why settle for something so passé: Balmoral Castle is a bargain at just $140million, while snapping up Edinburgh Castle won’t leave you much change to redecorate. Not needing a full-time job would certainly leave more time to watch sports…or just buy the sports teams. The Red Bull Formula One team could be yours for just $640million, or how about Galaxy FC for $835million?

We asked customers buying lottery tickets at Broadway Wine & Spirits what they would spend their winnings on. “Gas,” replied Mucio Saenz. “I’d get some gas for my car and then go look for a nice, new, expensive one to buy.”

Despite the torrential downpour on Monday, a slow-yet-steady stream of lunchtime customers were still purchasing tickets for the Mega Millions draw along with day-to-day groceries. However, everyone was purchasing a ticket for the sole reason that the jackpot had reached such an unfathomable amount.

Aside from birthdays of friends and family, no one had “a system” to speak of, with some just preferring the ease of having random numbers selected.

“I usually just do a quick pick, but because the prize is so high this time around, I might include some birthdays” said James Walton.

The most popular answer to the all-important question, how would you spend the winnings, was without a doubt, “A house,” suggesting simple home and financial security is still very much at the top of most people’s modest dreams.

In California, the store that actually sells the winning ticket can receive up to a $1million, but the rules vary from state to state. Ohio for example, pays up to $100,000 and in Illinois, retailers can

get up to a $500,000 bonus. The state lotteries say it’s part of their efforts to encourage retailers to promote ticket sales. Some business owners say they also often see at least a temporary surge in business, as superstitious players stop off to buy their tickets at a spot where someone hit it big.

So be prepared for slightly longer queues at the liquor stores today. Joe and Lisa Green, owners of Broadway Wine & Spirits, both buy tickets themselves, but have quite different views on the whole lottery phenomenon. “I usually get a ticket every week, but my wife [Lisa] only ever buys if the prize gets big, following a few rollovers, like with this week.”

If, perchance, you do win an obscene amount of moolah this evening, maybe give a chunk of change to a worthy local charity. Look up your local cat and kitten rescue, a billion bucks can cover a lot of veterinary bills, not to mention a ton of tuna. That is, of course, if it doesn’t rollover yet again.

scott.snowden@smdp.com

Scott Snowden

Scott Snowden started with the SMDP in 2023 with a long list of journalistic experience. He has written local and international investigative work in Forbes, The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, The...