US Mega Millions lottery tops US$500 million, stirring daydreams

A sign displays that the Mega Millions Lottery prize is US$512 million at a newsstand in New York City.
A sign displays that the Mega Millions Lottery prize is US$512 million at a newsstand in New York City.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The jackpot for Tuesday night's US Mega Millions lottery has reached US$522 million (S$711 million), the fifth-largest prize in the game's history, sparking a wave of social media daydreaming about what people will do if they win.

The amount in the pot is based on sales in the 44 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

It has been climbing steady after 22 failed draws since May 8 and could likely further increase in value before the latest drawing on Tuesday evening, Tracey Cohen, the chief operating officer for the DC Lottery, said in a phone interview.

"It's jackpot fever. People are very excited about this large jackpot so everybody's participating," Cohen said ahead of the 11pm ET (11am on Wednesday, Singapore time), drawing.

Any winner could choose to take an immediate lump-sum payout of US$308 million before taxes. To take home the entire US$522 million, the winner would have to take an initial installment of US$7.8 million, followed by 29 annual payments that increase each year.

Some Twitter users laid out plans to buy islands or boats with possible winnings, while the more altruistic sketched dreams of charity.

Even Minnesota's Orono Police Department joined the fever: "Kinda hard to work today... Thinking about how I'm going to spend my #MegaMillions winnings."

In March, a New Jersey man won US$533 million, the fourth-largest pot in the game's history and the second-largest win on a single ticket.

Since then, in May, a ticket sold in Ohio won a US$142 million jackpot claimed by a trust.

The Powerball lottery holds the record with a US$1.586 billion payout in 2016.

The largest Mega Millions lottery grand prize was US$656 million in 2012. Three winning tickets were sold in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland.