Mega Millions History

Mega Millions has been creating big winners for more than 20 years. It has been rebranded and the format has changed since it was launched, but the game has continued to grow and it now offers huge jackpots to players in 44 states, plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Find out about the game’s history here.

1996 - The Big Game

Known as The Big Game when it was established, the first draw took place on September 6th 1996. Players had to select five numbers from a pool of 50, plus one extra number from a second pool of 25. Originally, there were six states – Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia – which sold tickets and weekly draws took place on Fridays.

A Tuesday draw was added in February 1998, before a series of changes were made in 1999. The second ball pool was increased from 25 to 36, jackpot winners were allowed to choose a one-off cash payment rather than an annuity and New Jersey joined the game.

2002 - Rebranding as Mega Millions

Ohio and New York became the next participating states as the game was renamed The Big Game Mega Millions ahead of the drawing on May 17th 2002. Players now had to match five main numbers from 52 plus one from a separate pool of 52 to win the jackpot.

Washington, Texas and California joined the game over the next three years and, to mark the last of those introductions, the matrix was changed again to 5/56 + 1/46.

2010 - Growth of the Game

An agreement in 2010 allowed tickets to go on sale in all the same participating states as Powerball, significantly increasing the number of players entering each draw.

The increased participation helped to push up jackpots quickly, and a host of big winners were created over the next few years. A new record for the highest top prize was set on 30th March 2012 when three players split $656 million.

2013 - Changes

A number of changes were made to Mega Millions in October 2013 to freshen up the game. The format was changed so that players had to select five numbers from a possible 75, plus one Mega Ball from a choice of 15.

2017 - Refresh

More Mega Millions updates were revealed in 2017, taking place for the first time in the October 31st drawing:

  • Players would now have to pick five main numbers out of 70.
  • The Mega Ball would be selected from 1 to 25.
  • The starting jackpot would also be increased to $40 million
  • Ticket prices changed to $2
  • Prize values in most tiers were increased.

2018 - The First Billionaire

The Mega Millions draw on October 23rd 2018 offered a jackpot of $1.53 billion, which was won by one ticket holder from South Carolina, making it the biggest ever lottery prize won by a single ticket holder.