DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The numbers for the $636 million Mega Millions jackpot were drawn Tuesday night. Now, the country waits to see if there’s a winner of the second largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.
The winning numbers were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39; Mega Ball: 7. The cash option is estimated at $341 million, before taxes.
The jackpot now trails only a $656 million Mega Millions pot that was sold in March 2012.
Mega Millions changed its rules in October to help increase the jackpots by lowering the odds of winning the top prize. That means the chances of winning the jackpot are now about 1 in 259 million. It used to be about 1 in 176 million, nearly the same odds of winning a Powerball jackpot.
But that hasn’t stopped aspiring multimillionaires from playing the game.
“Oh, I think there’s absolutely no way I am going to win this lottery,” said Tanya Joosten, 39, an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who bought several tickets Tuesday. “But it’s hard for such a small amount of money to not take the chance.”
Annie Pedersen also said she wanted to be part of the action, so she jumped in and bought two tickets at a Milwaukee grocery.
“Everybody is so excited about it so I wanted to get in on some of the excitement, too, by watching,” she said.
Tickets are selling at a pace that surpassed even the lottery’s expectations, said Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions.
Otto said officials expect about 70 percent of the possible number combinations to be purchased for Tuesday’s drawing. She also noted that if a winner isn’t selected either Tuesday night or for Friday’s drawing, the jackpot could hit $1 billion – an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, the nation’s two main lottery games.
The Mega Millions revamp comes about two years after Powerball changed some of its game rules and increased the price of a ticket to $2 and added $1 million and $2 million secondary prizes. Mega Millions remains $1, and an extra $1 option has been expanded to allow up to $5 million as a secondary prize.
The changes in both games were aimed at creating bigger and faster growing jackpots. So far, it looks like it’s working.
Mega Millions is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.