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The $1.28 Billion Mega Millions Jackpot Would Be One of the Biggest Ever—Here Are the Top 5 So Far

Twenty/20

If everyone you know is dropping words like "jackpot" and "estate planning" into casual conversation, there's a good chance they've noticed that the Mega Millions lottery's top prize has once again crossed the $1 billion mark.

Monday's $830 million Mega Millions drawing yielded no winners for the lottery's top prize, sending the jackpot soaring to $1.28 billion overall for the next drawing on Friday, July 29. It's the third time in history that a Mega Millions jackpot has climbed into 10-figure territory, and only the fourth billion-dollar lottery prize in U.S. history.

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The prize has been growing for more than three months. The odds of winning it are currently roughly one in 302.6 million, according to Mega Millions.

The last jackpot winner, announced after the April 15 drawing, claimed a $20 million top prize — nothing to sneeze at, but a mere fraction of the current jackpot, which would rank as the fourth-largest lottery prize ever claimed in the U.S.

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 "Shark Tank" star Kevin O'Leary says you should choose.) The lump sum payment for a Mega Millions winner on Friday would be around $602.5 million.

Here's a look at the top lottery prizes ever won so far.

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 of this huge drawing in October 2018 took their time to surface. South Carolina is one of a handful of states that allows lottery winners to claim their prize anonymously, so the ticket-holder — who didn't make themselves known — finally claimed their winnings in March of the following year, just a little more than a month ahead of the deadline to come forward or risk forfeiting the prize.

What we do know is that the winner chose the cash option for their prize, which resulted in a one-time payment of almost $878 million. While it's not the largest-ever jackpot, that number does represent the biggest payout to a single lottery winner in U.S. history.

Based on the expected tax bill, the total haul from that jackpot was likely somewhere around $491.7 million, after both federal and state taxes — a 7 percent income tax in South Carolina, plus the 37 percent federal rate. Other taxes may have also applied.

3. $1.05 billion (Mega Millions)

The third-biggest U.S. lottery prize ever was finally won in a January 2021 Mega Millions drawing. But because the winning ticket was bought in Michigan, a state that allows winners to remain anonymous, it took a few months for the public to learn anything about the winners.

The ticket was reportedly purchased by four members of a lottery club in the Detroit suburb of Novi. A lawyer representing the club claimed the prize for them in March 2021.

"A club member saw a sign that the jackpot was up to $1 billion and remembered that they hadn't bought their tickets yet, so they pulled into the Kroger," Kurt Panouses, the estate lawyer and club representative, told reporters on behalf of the winners last year.

"When you play, of course you dream of winning, but the reality of it has been incredible," he said. "This kind of money will impact the families of our club members for generations to come. We plan to stay humble and pay it forward through charitable giving in southeast Michigan."

4. $768.4 million (Powerball)

Manuel Franco bought his winning ticket in New Berlin, Wisconsin, a small city located in the suburbs of Milwaukee. When he came forward to claim his prize in April 2019, Franco told reporters that he bought the winning ticket at a time when he had less than $1,000 in his bank account.

Franco chose the lump sum payment option for his jackpot prize, which equaled $477 million. Wisconsin lottery officials said at the time that he would likely take home about $326 million after paying state and federal taxes.

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. 

5. $758.7 million (Powerball)

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 subsequent things Wanczyk did was tell her employer of 32 years, Mercy Medical Center, that she was quitting.

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

Update: This story has been updated to reflect the Mega Millions jackpot's updated value of $1.28 billion.

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