Powerball, Mega Millions Jackpots Worth Estimated $764M, Highest During Pandemic

Posted on: December 30, 2020, 10:03h. 

Last updated on: December 30, 2020, 10:19h.

Powerball and Mega Millions are getting back to what they do best: generate headlines with their eye-catching massive jackpots.

Powerball Mega Millions lottery jackpot
Feeling lucky? Powerball and Mega Millions might just be the ticket to cure your optimism heading into the new year. (Image: NBC News)

The Powerball jackpot for tonight’s 10:59 pm ET drawing is an estimated $363 million. That’s the largest jackpot for the interstate game since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation. It closed down certain lottery retailers, and tens of millions of Americans were forced to rein in their spending because of job losses.

Powerball’s last jackpot worth more than tonight’s drawing came back in January, nearly a full year ago.

Three tickets almost won the December 26 drawing, then worth an estimated $341 million. The trio matched all five white balls, but failed to hit on the No. 18 Powerball. Those tickets still won $1 million each.

Twenty-two other tickets matched four white balls plus the Powerball. Those tickets won $50,000 each. The exact winnings depend on whether the player paid the extra $1 Power Play to multiply their non-jackpot prizes.

Approaching $1B Mark

Lottery officials across the country reported sluggish sales during the height of the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders and limited travel have been blamed for the reduction in retail lottery sales. While 45 states have lotteries, only 10 sell tickets online.

Despite COVID-19 continuing to spread and hospitalizations up in many states, Americans are apparently returning to their pre-pandemic lottery habits.

The escalating Powerball jackpot isn’t alone. Mega Millions, which will be drawn on New Year’s Day at 11 pm ET, is at an estimated $401 million. That’s its highest jackpot since a $410 million hit was won in June.

Together, Powerball and Mega Millions are worth an estimated $764 million. The odds of hitting either are nearly unthinkable. Powerball offers a jackpot chance of one in 292.2 million. Mega Millions is even longer — one in 302.5 million.

In 2018, as the two most popular lottery games in the US had jackpots totaling $1.3 billion, business news outlet CNBC estimated that the odds of one person winning both is one in 88 quadrillion (1 in 88,000,000,000,000,000).

But as a popular saying in Asia goes, “If you don’t gamble, you don’t know how lucky you are.”

‘Lottery Lawyer’ Update

In August, the man who long claimed to be the go-to attorney to help lottery jackpot winners protect their money was accused on federal charges of swindling millions of their cash. Jason Kurland, the self-dubbed “lottery lawyer,” was charged with 21 federal counts, including six counts of wire fraud, eight counts of honest services fraud, and money laundering.

Authorities say he stole at least $70 million from the woman who won the record $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot in October of 2018.

Eastern District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis granted an extension to Kurland’s attorneys in November for the defense to produce and review evidence, and potentially “engage in plea negotiations” with prosecutors.

The next status conference is scheduled for January 15, 2021.