The Early Years
Mega Millions began on August 31, 1996 as the Big Game. The first drawing took place on September 6, 1996, with six states participating: Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Virginia.
After exciting growth of the game in 1997, a Tuesday drawing was added in February 1998. Players were given a larger choice of numbers and a "cash payout" option in January 1999. In May 1999, New Jersey became the seventh member state.
In May 2002, the multistate game was given the new name of "Mega Millions," New York and Ohio became member states, and the game matrix and prize amounts were changed to offer players more excitement.
In September 2002, Washington became the 10th member state, followed by Texas in December 2003. In June 2005, California became the 12th member, solidifying Mega Millions as the country's most widely played multistate jackpot game.
On January 31, 2010, 23 more state lotteries joined Mega Millions as a historic cross-selling agreement between Mega Millions and Powerball went into effect. With additional lotteries joining since then, Mega Millions is now played in 47 jurisdictions: 45 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On March 30, 2012, Mega Millions made history with the world’s largest prize in any jackpot game to that date: $656 million. The jackpot was split three ways, by winning tickets in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland. That lottery industry record stood for almost four years until it was eclipsed by a $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot in January 2016; Mega Millions joined the billion-dollar club on October 23, 2018.
New Prizes and New Ways to Play
Mega Millions became the first jackpot game to offer second-tier prizes of up to $5 million when it relaunched with a new matrix on October 19, 2013. In just over four years with a 5-of-75 plus 1-of-15 matrix, there were 571 Match 5 winners, including 65 that were worth more than the $1 million base prize by including the optional Megaplier. Twenty-eight of those were $5 million winning tickets.
To accommodate public demand for more frequent large jackpots and bigger lower-tier prizes, Mega Millions introduced a new matrix on October 28, 2017, with a $2 ticket price and a $40 million starting jackpot. Not only will jackpots roll faster and higher, but the change in the prize structure means that players now have a much better chance than ever before of winning the second-tier prize of $1 million (or up to $5 million with the optional Megaplier).
With the 2017 relaunch, Mega Millions introduced an innovative Just the Jackpot play option. Available in many states, this industry-first option allows players to purchase two chances to win the jackpot for just $3.00. These Just the Jackpot tickets are not eligible for any other prize levels.
Until further notice, starting jackpots will vary based on sales and will be announced before each drawing; this temporary measure is effective beginning with the April 7, 2020, drawing.