Mega Millions jackpot hits $333 million

The 12-state lottery has hopeful would-be winners doling out dollars for a chance to take home what's shaping up to be the third-biggest U.S. lottery payout.

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By David Goldman, CNNMoney.com staff writer

chart_lottery.ju.jpg
Biggest U.S. jackpots
Date Jackpot Game
3/6/07 $390,000,000 Mega Millions
2/18/06 $365,000,000 Powerball
8/28/09 $333,000,000* Mega Millions
8/31/07 $330,000,000 Mega Millions
11/15/05 $315,000,000 Mega Millions
8/25/07 $314,300,000 Powerball
7/2/04 $294,000,000 Mega Millions
3/15/08 $276,300,000 Powerball
2/22/08 $275,000,000 Mega Millions
2/28/06 $270,000,000 Mega Millions
Source:Powerball, Mega Millions *Estimate

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Undeterred by the miniscule odds, people were lining up Friday for a chance to score the estimated $333 million Mega Millions jackpot.

The odds really are microscopic. You have a one in 175,711,536 chance of winning. That's a 0.0000006% chance.

Still, since tickets are just $1, and the jackpot payout is double the odds of winning, if a person bought all 176 million combinations, he or she would be guaranteed to win at least $157 million.

So playing the Mega Millions on Friday could make sense ... if you could afford to spend $176 million on tickets. Bear in mind, that only works if there is a single winner who doesn't take a lump sum payout.

The 12-state lottery anticipates hundreds of millions tickets to be purchased before the 11 p.m. ET drawing Friday night for what will be at least the third-largest U.S. lottery jackpot of all time. The New York Mega Millions branch said it expects ticket sales to eclipse $1 million per hour starting with the noon hour on Friday.

"This is a huge jackpot," said Jennifer Givner, spokeswoman for the New York Mega Millions. "There's a lot of excitement about it, and we probably made a conservative estimate of the jackpot."

Mega Millions guarantees its jackpot, so it could go even higher, depending on the number of ticket sales. In fact, Mega Millions raised its jackpot estimate by $8 million on Friday based on stronger-than-expected sales.

Sander Sharman, who owns the newsstand on 9th Avenue and 57th Street in New York said Mega Millions sales have been overwhelming. The line for lottery tickets was out the door.

"It's never been anything like this," said Sharman just before 1 p.m. ET on Friday. "We usually do 1,200 sales in a day, and already we have 4,200."

All of that business is good news for retailers like Sharman. Lottery retailers get a 6% commission on all sales and a $10,000 bonus for selling the jackpot-winning ticket.

How it works. After the drawing, the 12 participating states begin to count up their tickets and check to see if there is a match. Winners get about 50% of the pool, with roughly 35% divided between the state coffers and 15% going to lottery retailers and administrative costs.

If there is a winner or multiple winners, the states will likely know by early Saturday morning, according to Givner. If not, the money is returned to the pool and the game continues with an even higher jackpot.

That's been the case for the last 14 bi-weekly drawings -- no one has hit the nail on the head. But some have come close: On Tuesday, 17 Pepsi Bottling Group employees in Albany, N.Y., split a ticket and guessed right on five of the five numbers. But they missed the final Megaball number, and split just $250,000.

The last jackpot winner was on July 7, when a former New York City Transit employee won $133 million. The jackpot then went back to its base of $12 million.

Winners can choose between a lump-sum cash payment and annuity payments. If the $333 million jackpot winner chooses the annual payment plan, he or she would receive $12.8 million per year, before taxes, for the next 26 years.

The lump sum is calculated using the present value of U.S. Treasurys based on Friday's market rates. Using that formula, Mega Millions estimated that the winner will take home $210 million before taxes if he or she chooses the lump sum option.

The vast, vast majority of winners choose the lump sum payments, according to Givner.

Jack Peragine, a 54-year old New York doorman said he hopes he gets the chance to decide how he collects his winnings.

"I buy lottery tickets here and there, but I figured I'd definitely get one today," he said. "It's like the [New York] lottery slogan says, 'Hey, you never know.'"

The 12 states that participate in the Mega Millions are California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and Washington. To top of page

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