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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Record $1.6 billion US Mega Millions lottery has a winner - but we may never know who it is

Ticket purchased in South Carolina matches all six numbers

A man shows his just purchased lottery tickets from a store in Hawthorne, California. The winning ticket, however, was purchased in South Carolina. AFP
A man shows his just purchased lottery tickets from a store in Hawthorne, California. The winning ticket, however, was purchased in South Carolina. AFP

Lottery officials say someone has won the record US$1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot.

Mega Millions officials said a ticket purchased in South Carolina matches all six numbers in Tuesday night's draw. The massive jackpot is the world's largest ever lottery grand prize.

And it's possible that the world will never know the winner.

South Carolina is one of eight states — along with Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas — where winners can remain anonymous. In the others, their identities will become public.

The $1.6bn prize reflects the annuity option, paid over 29 years. However, nearly all winners take the cash option, which for Tuesday's drawing was an estimated $913 million.

The winning numbers were 5, 28, 62, 65, 70 and Mega Ball 5. The lucky player overcame miserable odds: The chance of matching all six numbers and winning the top prize is 1 in 302.5 million.

Mega Millions is played in 44 states as well as Washington DC, and the US Virgin Islands.

It will likely be days or even weeks before a winner steps forward to claim the prize, which would be an estimated $913 million if they take the cash option. The $1.6bn prize reflects the annuity option, paid over 29 years.

Lottery officials and financial managers encourage people to take time to map out a strategy for investing their hundreds of millions of dollars, and winners must deal with security concerns befitting someone who suddenly is immensely wealthy. Depending on the state, winners have from 180 days to a year to claim their prize.

The Mega Millions jackpot grew so large because it had been nearly three months since a player had matched all six numbers and won the top prize. The last time that happened was July 24, when 11 co-workers from California won $543m.

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Read more:

Americans on edge for record $1.6 billion jackpot in Mega Millions drawing

US Mega Millions jackpot nears $1 billion hours before drawing

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Although Tuesday's jackpot was extraordinarily large, it's no fluke. It reflects a trend toward ever-growing lottery prizes due to changes in the game that worsened the odds with hopes that bigger jackpots would result in better sales.

Officials with the Powerball game were the first to make that move in October 2015 when changing the odds of winning the jackpot from 1 in 175 million to 1 in 292.2 million. Mega Millions followed suit in October 2017, resulting in the odds worsening from 1 in 259 million to 1 in 302.5 million.

While most attention has been on the Mega Millions game, Powerball also has been soaring. The estimated prize for Powerball's annuity option in Wednesday night's drawing is $620m, with a cash prize of $354.3m.