By Todd Northrop
Mega Millions lottery players across the United States are pulling out the stops and lottery tickets are being snapped up at a furious pace nation-wide for the Friday evening drawing, which has been raised mid-week to $312 million.
By the time ticket sales close Friday night, the jackpot may be even higher.
The estimated jackpot for the March 25, 2011 Mega Millions drawing was raised Thursday from $304 million to $312 million because of heavier than expected sales in all Mega Millions states.
Likewise, the lump-sum cash value of the massive grand prize was raised to $198 million, and increase of $4.4 million from the initial estimate made early Wednesday morning.
"Sales for Mega Millions have risen tremendously in the last couple of weeks, which is a huge boost for education," said Rebecca Hargrove, President and CEO of the Tennessee Lottery.
In Indiana, lottery officials will be giving away free Mega Millions tickets Friday to the first 304 people at each of three convenience stores.
The first giveaway will be held at 6 a.m. at the Circle K store at Interstate 69 and 96th Street in Fishers. Then at noon, tickets will be given away at Silver Express, at 10th Street and Country Club Road in Indianapolis. Finally at 4:30 p.m., another giveaway will be held at a Village Pantry at 86th Street and Ditch Road in Indianapolis.
Lottery players seeking to check the winning numbers Friday night are urged to use USA Mega (www.usamega.com). State lottery Web sites are normally brought to a standstill during busy periods, while USA Mega normally remains responsive.
Mega Millions drawing results will be posted immediately after the 11:00 pm drawing at USA Mega. The number of winners and new jackpot will be announced after all participating Mega Millions states have reported their data, which normally occurs within a couple of hours after the drawing.
Tickets will remain on sale typically until 10:45 pm Eastern Time on Friday, although players should check with a lottery retailer in their state for the exact sales cutoff time. Players are advised not to wait until the last minute.
If the jackpot is not won on Friday, the Tuesday jackpot may become one of the largest lottery jackpots in history — if not the largest.
The odds of winning the jackpot are approximately 1 in 176 million. The odds of winning any of the Mega Millions prizes are approximately 1 in 40.
Mega Millions features nine different prize levels, ranging from $2 all the way up to the jackpot. Players can win even if they just match one number — the Mega Ball number.
Most states also offer the Megaplier option for an extra dollar per ticket purchased. The Megaplier multiplies any non-jackpot prizes won by 2, 3, or 4 times, depending on the Megaplier number drawn that evening.
Players who purchase the Megaplier and win second prize will automatically have their prize increased by 4x to $1 million.