Mega Millions jackpot now $500 million
For the first time in U.S. lottery history, an estimated jackpot has reached half-a-billion dollars.
The top prize was boosted late this morning, obliterating all previous records.
The cash payout is now a staggering $359 million.
Welcome to jackpot freak-out.
Even major media outlets like Good Morning America were going gaga early today over Mega Millions' annuity rolling over to $476 million, blowing away the old mark of $390 million, set by the game in March 2007.
Now the jackpot is even bigger.
The annuity has now jumped $144 million since Tuesday, crushing the $115 million rise also witnessed in March 2007.
The cash jackpot clobbered its own record, set Monday, by $100 million. The $359 million leaves the next biggest far back in the dust, the $240 million reached by Mega Millions in January last year. (See list of record jackpots: http://bit.ly/Hd1oJ8.)
If piled in a single stack of $1 bills, the cash windfall could start at the bottommost spot of the ocean and still tower above Mount Everest.
If paid at the rate of $1 every minute, the payout would take more than 600 years.
If anybody wants to give us a wheelbarrow full of cash, we'd be happy to count and calculate that, too.
The chances of winning with a single ticket, by the way, are 1 in 175.7 million.
You're about 200 times more likely to be struck by lightning this year, according to the National Weather Service.
Forty-seven tickets, including two in Pennsylvania and two in New Jersey, just missed last night. They matched the first five numbers - 9, 19, 34, 44 and 51 - but not the Mega Ball of 24.
Most will win $250,000 - instead of more than 1,000 times that much.
California's nine second-tier winners will each get $308,573 under that state's pari-mutuel system.
In other states, the usual payout for matching five numbers is $250,000. The amount gets boosted to $1 million if a player also bought the $1 Megaplier multiplier option.
New York had 11 players match five, while Washington State had three. With two apiece, besides Pennsylvania and New Jersey, were Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Texas.
Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont, South Carolina, Missouri, Colorado and Montana each sold one.
Mega Millions is played in all but eight states - Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Alaska and Hawaii.
The Powerball jackpot tonight is a comparatively modest $50 million, $30.2 million cash.