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Mega Millions jackpot grows to a historic US$1 billion

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 file photo, lottery forms for Louisiana Mega Millions, Powerball and other lottery games fill the drawer at The World Bar and Grill, in Delta, La., a few miles from the Mississippi-Louisiana state line. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

The United States’ Mega Millions lottery has become a draw for a mega US$1 billion, due to a more than four-month stretch without a winner.

It’s only the third time in history that a U.S. jackpot has surpassed the billion-dollar mark, amid a slumping lottery market that has been blamed on the coronavirus pandemic and extremely long odds of winning.

The potential $1-billion prize on Friday night is even larger than the US$731.1 million awarded in the Powerball jackpot on Wednesday. A single ticket sold in Maryland ultimately won that draw.

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Mega Millions and Powerball are the two most widely available lottery games in the U.S., but sales have been falling since October 2018, according to Maryland lottery director Gordon Medenica. Lottery officials have been forced to adapt by reducing their starting jackpots and changing rules around the guaranteed increases, he told The Associated Press.

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“That’s why it takes so many rolls to get up to a high jackpot level,” Medenica said.

However, the odds in both games have remained the same: one in 292.2 million for Powerball or one in 302.5 million for Mega Millions.

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The largest-ever lottery draw in the U.S. was a Powerball lottery for $1.586 billion, on Jan. 13, 2016. That jackpot was ultimately split between three winning tickets after a much-hyped draw that attracted players from across the U.S. and some from Canada.

The second-largest jackpot, and largest in Mega Millions history, was a $1.537-billion prize drawn on Oct. 23, 2018. One ticket claimed the prize in the largest single payout ever.

The current jackpot will grow if no winning numbers are drawn on Friday night.

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—With files from The Associated Press