Money

One ticket won the $1.5 billion Mega Millions — here's who won the 5 biggest US lottery prizes ever 

A billboard advertising the largest Mega Millions jackpot ever for Oct. 23, 2018.
 Patrick Gorski | NurPhoto via Getty Images
A billboard advertising the largest Mega Millions jackpot ever for Oct. 23, 2018.

The world welcomed a new instant multimillionaire (or multimillionaires) on Tuesday night. One ticket sold in South Carolina overcame drastic odds to win the largest-ever Mega Millions jackpot of more than $1.5 billion.

Facing odds of 1 in 302.6-million, the winning ticket finally ended weeks of anticipation after no winning tickets were sold for the lottery since July 24. That means Mega Millions will reset to its baseline $40 million jackpot for its next drawing on Friday. But, you still have a chance at another huge jackpot, as the estimated Powerball prize for Wednesday night's drawing is now up to a whopping $620 million.

The most recent Mega Millions prize had been thought to be the largest lottery jackpot in history, but the final tally fell slightly below the estimated $1.6 billion total in the end. That makes the jackpot the second-biggest ever.

Lottery winners choose between receiving their winnings in an annuity — with payments over 30 years — or the more popular option, a single lump sum payment in a smaller amount (that's the option Kevin O'Leary says you should choose). The lump sum on Tuesday's $1.54 billion jackpot is $877.8 million. If the as yet unnamed winner (or winners) chooses that option, the total haul will be about $491.7 million, after both federal and state taxes (a 7 percent income tax in South Carolina, plus the 37 percent federal rate), while other taxes may also apply.

Here is a look at the top lottery prizes ever won.

1. $1.586 billion (Powerball)

This Powerball drawing from Jan. 13, 2016, for which three winning tickets were sold, remains history's biggest lottery prize.

The winners — John and Lisa Robinson in Tennessee, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt in Florida and Marvin and Mae Acosta in California — split the full prize, giving them the option of roughly $533 million before taxes as an annuity or $327.8 million as the lump-sum payment.

The Robinsons' winning ticket was one of four they bought at a grocery store, they told NBC's TODAY show. They opted to take the lump sum. "We're not guaranteed tomorrow," says John.

Florida-based Smith and Kaltschmidt also picked the lump sum. At the time they planned to get massages, upgrade their truck and retire with the newfound wealth, according to NBC.

The Acostas remained anonymous for months after winning, but released a statement saying they were thankful for the "rare gift that has been placed in our care."

2. $1.537 billion (Mega Millions)

The winner (or winners) of Tuesday's drawing has yet to come forward, but lottery officials confirmed that only one ticket sold for the drawing matched all of the winning numbers. And, because that ticket was sold in South Carolina, the world may never know exactly who won the huge prize.

South Carolina is one of a handful of states that allows lottery winners to claim their prize anonymously — and it's possible Tuesday's winner (or winners) will do just that.

3. $758.7 million (Powerball)

Mavis L. Wanczyk was announced as the winner of the $758.7 Million Powerball Jackpot in August of 2017. 
Boston Globe | Getty Images
Mavis L. Wanczyk was announced as the winner of the $758.7 Million Powerball Jackpot in August of 2017. 

Mavis L. Wanczyk of Chicopee, Massachusetts, claimed the winning ticket for the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot in August of 2017, taking $480.5 million before taxes as the lump sum payment. One of the first things Wanczyk did after winning was to tell her employer, Mercy Medical Center, that she was quitting after working there for 32 years.

"I've called them and told them I will not be coming back," she told NBC.

4. $656 million (Mega Millions)

Merle Butler, right, standing next to his wife Patricia Butler, holds up the winning Lottery ticket, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
Belleville News-Democrat | Getty Image
Merle Butler, right, standing next to his wife Patricia Butler, holds up the winning Lottery ticket, Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

Mega Millions also sold three winning tickets in March 2012 for this massive jackpot.

Illinois winners Merle and Patricia Butler claimed $218.6 million of the winnings. And, in Maryland, where lottery winners are allowed to remain anonymous, three school employees claimed their share under the name "The Three Amigos."

The third winner in Kansas remains anonymous.

5. $648 million (Mega Millions)

Ira Curry of Georgia and Steve Tran of California split the December 2013 Mega Millions lottery after they both bought winning tickets. Both took the lump sum option worth roughly $173 million apiece.

After winning, Tran called his boss to say "I don't think I'm going to come in today, tomorrow or ever," according to NBC Bay Area. Because several states also give an additional prize to the store that sells the winning ticket, Jennifer's Gift Shop, where Tran bought several tickets, received its own $1 million for selling the winner.

Meanwhile, Curry bought her tickets as a last-minute decision and selected a combination of family birthdays and her lucky number seven.

Don't miss: The smartest steps to take if you win the $700 million Powerball jackpot

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