By Todd Northrop
Lottery players across the United States are buying their Mega Millions tickets in preparation for Friday's massive $200 million drawing.
The cash value stands at a staggering $145.4 million. Lottery players typically think of the cash value as roughly half of the annuity estimate, but this Mega Millions cash value represents 73% of the annuity estimate.
Friday's Mega Millions jackpot is the accumulation of 14 consecutive drawings without a top prize winner. The current jackpot run-up started on Jan. 27 as a $12 million grand prize.
Players should note that jackpot amounts are conservative estimates provided by the lotteries, and are often somewhat higher by the time the drawing occurs.
In the latest Mega Millions drawing that took place this past Tuesday night, there was no jackpot winner, but 9 lucky players matched the first 5 numbers for a $250,000 prize: 3 from California, 1 from Illinois, 1 from Massachusetts, 1 from New Jersey, 1 from New York, and 2 from Virginia.
The 3 California winners will each be awarded prizes of $235,402, because California awards all prizes in a pari-mutuel formula, which calculates the prize amount based on the number of tickets sold and the number of winners in each prize category.
The Mega Millions winning numbers for Tuesday, March 13, 2012, were 2, 8, 30, 36, and 48, with Mega Ball number 31. The Megaplier number was 3.
Following the Tuesday drawing, the Mega Millions annuity jackpot estimate was raised $29 million from its previous amount of $171 million. The cash value was raised by $20.7 million, from its previous amount of $124.7 million.
The next Mega Millions drawing will take place Friday evening at 11:00 pm EDT.
Mega Millions is currently offered for sale in 42 states, plus Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
For a complete set of game descriptions, results, history, and all questions regarding Mega Millions, lottery players are encouraged to visit USA Mega (www.usamega.com), a Web site that caters to the Unites States's two multi-state lottery games, Powerball and Mega Millions.
The Mega Millions winning numbers will be published at USA Mega Friday night, minutes after the drawing takes place.