ORLANDO, Fla. – There’s a famous quote commonly attributed to several different authors that goes something like this: “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
We truly do not know who came up with that, really, but whoever said it first was undoubtedly correct.
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Depending on your retention of lottery trivia, you might see this week’s coverage of Mega Millions becoming Mega Billions as a bit repetitive. That’s because it’s happened twice already, with a $1.05B jackpot paid to a winning Michigan ticket in January 2021 and only slightly less recently in October 2018 with a $1.5B prize pool that turned a lucky player in South Carolina into the industry’s wealthiest single-ticket winner to date.
This is all according to Mega Millions, explaining on its website the “exciting growth” since kicking off in August 1996 as the Big Game has seen the game itself behave in exponential fashion, but only lately.
I didn’t spell it out in 50 words or less, so I’ll say it here: This latest jackpot is only the second-largest in the lottery’s history, and the billion mark has already been crossed twice in last four years. But, are we forgetful, or are we just jaded?
At this point, despite the near-incomprehensibility of what a billion of something is, Mega Millions is virtually playing double-dutch over that line at this point.
To put that into better perspective, here’s my favorite piece of numbers trivia: Waiting for one million seconds to pass would take around 11 days and 13 hours, easy money, but one billion seconds would take over 31.5 years. You just sit there and think about that.
These days, literally from now until the next drawing on Friday, your odds of winning the jackpot are said to be dropping from 1 in 302,575,350. Therefore, your odds of winning that Mega Billion are more than 300 times worse than your odds of being struck by lightning in the U.S., which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates are less than 1 in 1,000,000.
And who can even play, anyway? One can buy a Mega Millions ticket anywhere in the U.S. besides Nevada, Utah, Alabama, Hawaii and Alaska. While some of our neighbors in the dry west, sunny Pacific and icy north can’t join in, you can still buy a ticket in the U.S. Virgin Islands and in the District of Colombia, Mega Millions explains.
States and localities had to be added over time, with the game starting with Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia, but the biggest shift may have occurred in January 2010 when 23 more state lotteries joined in. It’s a cornerstone of journalism to always remember that correlation does not always mean causation, but we can still note how how every bar on the graph above is dated to 2012 or later, for example.
In any case, we can always keep watching this story unfold, looking for more repetition. Keep in mind for Friday that USA Mega reports the most picked numbers are 7, 21, 40, 3 and 58, with the most common Mega ball to roll out being 24. To me, as I continue to imply we should just enjoy the spectacle and make the most of it, I see the building blocks of a fun albeit brief drinking game.
So, cheers to the winner. And if you see this, lemme get some too, huh?