US lottery jackpot soars to $636m

2013-12-17 22:43
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Des Moines - The Mega Millions jackpot soared to an estimated $636m on Tuesday, making it the second largest lottery jackpot in US history, and raised the possibility that the prize could pass the once-unthinkable $1bn mark by Christmas eve should nobody win before then.

The top prize had been estimated at $586m, but lottery officials increased their prediction on Tuesday morning because of strong ticket sales.

The jackpot now trails only a $656m 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.

Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and lead director for Mega Millions, said officials expect about 70% of the possible number combinations to be purchased for Tuesday night's drawing.

She also noted that if a winner isn't selected either Tuesday night or for Friday's drawing, the jackpot could hit $1bn - an unheard of amount for Mega Millions or Powerball, America's two main lottery games.

Mega Millions is played in 43 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands.

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