By Todd Northrop
Mega Millions lottery players across the United States are pulling out the stops for the Tuesday evening drawing, which now stands as the largest Mega Millions grand prize in more than a year.
The estimated jackpot of the March 27, 2012, Mega Millions drawing was raised Monday from $356 million to $363 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 $259.8 million, an increase of $4.7 million from the initial estimate made early Saturday morning.
In fact, one could argue that the Tuesday Mega Millions jackpot is the largest in history, due to the fact that the cash value is higher than any other lottery drawing ... ever.
Lottery players seeking to check the winning numbers Tuesday 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 Tuesday, 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 Tuesday, the Friday jackpot will certainly become the largest lottery jackpot in history — for both its annuity and cash values.
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.
All states except California 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.