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The history of the American Mega Millions

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The Mega Millions has a long history in the US, and some memorable jackpot prizes can be associated with this game. It has been quite popular ever since it was first organized, and its predecessor, The Big Game was also really popular.

The history of the American Mega Millions

More Mega Millions. Photo: flickr.com / Sam Saunders; License: CC0 - Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0): https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/; Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/samsaunders/15540523090

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Before Mega Millions was even called the way we know it today, its direct predecessor, The Big Game attracted thousands of players each week once it had its debut in the August of 1996. It was only sold in Illinois, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland and Virginia first, and it had weekly draws on Fridays.

Then in 2002, several changes were done to the game, and this was the time when its name changed to The Big Game Mega Millions, before later the old name of the game was removed. The change in the name was accompanied by a change in the name of the gold ball, which soon became the Big Money Ball, then the Mega Ball.

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It’s rather interesting that on the first ever Mega Millions drawing on May 17, 2002, someone won the jackpot and earned 28 million dollars, then on the third draw, there was another lucky winner who got unexpected millions.

Several states joined the Mega Millions lottery, such as California, Washington and Texas in the first few years, then in 2010, Montana was the first to join when the cross-sell expansion became available in 2010. Cross-selling was also an important event as the Megaplier option, which was only available in Texas before that date, was gradually added to the Mega Million lotteries elsewhere too. Megaplier is an option that provides some additional chance to multiply the amount of money won (sometimes as much as five times more, in fact), but it has an additional cost.

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While the game remained quite popular, the public wished for bigger prizes, and above all, unbelievable jackpot prizes. Also, they wanted to see big prizes more frequently. This led to another change in 2017, when the organizers changed the prize structure so that players became more likely to win big second-tier prizes, and jackpots also rolled faster and higher.

In the same year, the game’s organizers came up with the innovative idea of “Just the Jackpot” tickets, which allow players to buy double-chance tickets for cheaper, yet, as its name says it, this type of ticket is only eligible for the jackpot prize, and not for any other prize levels.

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The largest ever Mega Millions jackpot was 1.537 billion dollars, and was won on the 23th of October in 2018. This is also one of the biggest jackpot prizes in the history of lottery games, and before that, there was only one occasion when any lottery prize reached past the one billion dollar mark. Also, it was the biggest ever amount of money won by a single winner, because even though there was a higher prize won on the Powerball, that was won by several people, thus it had to be divided between them.

Some other incredible jackpot prizes were one in 2012 when 656 million dollars were won, another in 2013, when a 648 million dollar prize found its new owner, and at another date in 2018, when the jackpot prize reached as high as to 543 million dollars. There were 18 jackpots won that exceeded 300 million dollars this far, and since the launch of the game in 2002, there have been 184 jackpots won by 208 tickets.

Anita Diós