The Long Odds of Winning the Mega Millions Jackpot

You're more likely to become President of the United States than win the Mega Millions lottery

By Dan Stamm
|  Friday, Mar 30, 2012  |  Updated 6:49 PM EDT
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The record breaking $640 Mega Millions jackpot has everyone rushing to buy a lottery ticket. The prize may be big, but the odds of taking home big bucks are slim. NBC10's Terry Ruggles talks to hopeful lottery players.

NBC10 Philadelphia - Terry Ruggles

The record breaking $640 Mega Millions jackpot has everyone rushing to buy a lottery ticket. The prize may be big, but the odds of taking home big bucks are slim. NBC10's Terry Ruggles talks to hopeful lottery players.

Photos and Videos

Big Money, Slim Chance

The odds of winning the Mega Millions are slim, but that isn't stopping anyone from dreaming big. NBC10's Terry Ruggles talks to Mega Millions players at Yogi's Quick Shop in Deptford, N.J.

Mega Millions Mania Spreads

Hopefuls as well as people around the country are heading out to buy tickets for a chance to win the largest lottery jackpot in history. NBC10's Byron Scott speaks with local residents about what they would do if they won the massive prize.
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Mega Millions fever has taken over the Delaware Valley as people stand in lines and attempt to figure out lottery machines all in the name of getting a chance to win the world-record $640 million jackpot.

The mania is summed up by lottery officials.

"As of noon (Friday), Pennsylvania Lottery Mega Millions tickets were selling at about $500 per second, or $30,000 per minute," said Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Todd Rucci.

The likelihood you hit the jackpot is 1 in 175,711,536 -- making it highly unlikely -- but that doesn’t stop people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and beyond from dreaming about what they would buy with all that money ($462 million if you take the lump sum).

But really for all those dreams, there are plenty of other things that are more likely to happen.

First, it’s more likely you don’t win anything, considering it’s a 1 in 40 chance you at least win something -- hitting the Mega Ball is worth a cool two bucks one out of 75 times, according to the Mega Millions folks.

Of course the more tickets you buy, the better chance you would have at winning the jackpot by that number out of roughly 176 million. So if you buy 25 tickets with different numbers your chance of winning would be 25 in 176 million, roughly.

Mike Catalano, chairman of the mathematics department at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., tells the AP that there are plenty of other things you’re more likely to have happen to you than win the lottery.

Plenty of them are rather morbid:

  • You’re 50 times more likely to be struck by lightning
  • You’re 8,000 times more likely to be murdered
  • You’re 20,000 times more likely to die in a car crash

And it’s about a 1 in 4,464 chance that you are injured using a chainsaw (per Funny2.com).

Of course there are plenty of more light-hearted things that you have much better odds of having happen to you than winning the lottery.

  • The odds of bowling a 300 game: 1 in 11,500 (various sources)
  • The odds of hitting a hole-in-one in golf: 1 in 12,750 (Per About.com)
  • The odds of doing it twice in a round: 1 in 9,222,500 (Per About.com)
  • The odds of getting a royal flush on the river in Texas Hold-Em poker: 1 in 43,316 (WizardofOdds.com)
  • The odds of dating supermodel: 1 in 178,100 (BookofOdds.com)
  • The odds of becoming President of the United States: 1 in 10 million (KGBAnswers.com)

So maybe it’s time to start your campaign rather than buying a lottery ticket.

Or you could opt to be a major professional mascot, about a 1 in 2.5 million chance assuming there are 125 pro sports mascot jobs out there.

At least there are some things out there more unlikely than winning Mega Millions.

Per Yahoo! News:

The European Space Agency... feels more comfortable pinning down the odds: "The annual risk of a single person to be severely injured by a re-entering piece of space debris is about 1 in 100,000,000,000" -- one in 100 billion, said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the ESA's Orbital Debris Office. In the course of a 75-year lifetime, then, the odds of getting injured by space junk would be a little less than one in 1 billion.

And just in case you made an agreement to split your winnings with a friend or co-worker check out NBC10's Byron Scott's report on the guidelines for office pools.

And remember, ticket sales for the record jackpot end at 9:59 p.m. Friday.

One final thing, in Pennsylvania alone, about $16.6 million in profits have gone to benefiting older Pennsylvanians over the past 18 drawings, according to lottery officials.


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