With jackpots starting at $40 million and a number of amazing secondary prizes, the US Mega Millions lottery has made many big winners and changed many lives in the blink of an eye. With Mega Millions, you can become a millionaire even if you don’t match all the winning numbers because the secondary prizes are just that big. The second prize is worth $1 million and can even increase up to $5 million if you decide to play with the Megaplier.
But, our curiosity will always be raised by top jackpots and those who managed to win them. Who are the biggest US Mega Millions jackpot winners? Let us introduce you to their stories!
1. US$1.53 Billion: Mega Millions Record Jackpot
The US Mega Millions lottery passed the US$1-billion threshold in lotto jackpots for the first time in history in October 2018. A worldwide frenzy began as the pot grew bigger and bigger until it reached a mouth-watering US$1.53 billion. It came incredibly close to breaking the world record, which still belongs to the US Powerball and its US$1.56 billion jackpot of 2016. What the Mega Millions did manage to do is to set a new record for the largest lottery win on a single ticket because, to everybody’s surprise, the second largest jackpot of all times was won by a single ticket holder from South Carolina.
For more than four months after the big Mega Millions win of October 23rd, 2018, there was complete silence. Everybody was dying to know who the winner was and, then, if the billion-dollar prize would be claimed at all. Finally, in March 2019, the South Carolina winner came forward to take home the enormous jackpot. This happens to be one of the few states that permits lottery winners to stay anonymous and, unsurprisingly, the winner decided not to go public.
While there is no picture of him or her with the big publicity cheque, the Executive Director of the South Carolina Lottery Commission did say that this fantastic win was the result of an act of kindness. The winner purchased a Quick Pick ticket and “even allowed a fellow customer to make a Mega Millions lottery ticket purchase in front of the winner while in line at the store”.
2. US$656 Million
Mega Millions was the first lottery in history to have awarded a jackpot of over half a million dollars, even before the Powerball! In fact, this lottery held the record for the largest jackpot ever won for 4 years. When did this happen? It was the draw of March 30th, 2012 that made Mega Millions change the entire world’s perspective on lottery jackpots. The $656 million jackpot was won on 3 tickets. 1 of the 3 tickets was purchased in Maryland and belonged to a Mega Millions syndicate who dubbed themselves “The Three Amigos”. Another ticket was owned by an Illinois couple. Finally, the 3rd part of the prize went to Kansas, and was claimed by an anonymous player.
The Three Amigos – Maryland
This trio of winners became famous for the way they disguised themselves, covering their faces in front of the cameras when they claimed their prize. The 3 friends decided to get their $218 million as a lump sum. Despite their efforts to conceal their identity, the media found out some details about them: a woman and two men aged between 20 and 50, the winners worked at the time of the win in the education sector. The Maryland Lottery officials were happy to hand over the prize to “people who have contributed so much to the community.” In addition, they said that “this could not have happened to friendlier people”.
How did they find out that they won? First of all, they had bought a total of 60 tickets for the draw. Right after the numbers were drawn, one of them scattered all the tickets on the floor, checking the results. When he discovered that one of the lines matched the winning numbers, he immediately called his friends. They made copies of the ticket and signed it. Then, they put the ticket in a safe place until they approached the Maryland Lottery to claim their prize. As for their plans with the money, each had their own preferences. They talked about paying college for their children, covering debts, or traveling.
Merle and Patricia Butler – Illinois
A third of Mega Millions’ huge jackpot record went to a small town, Red Bud in Illinois, where one lucky couple scored a $111 million win, after taxes. Merle and Patricia Butler waited 2 weeks, and only came forward on April 18th. They cashed their win as a lump sum and disappeared from the public eye. While Mrs. Butler giggled for hours when she found out they became millionaires, Mr. Butler, a retired computer analyst and Vietnam veteran, immediately made contact with financial planners and legal counselors and began preparations for claiming the win. He said that making the necessary arrangements for the claim was like “another full-time job.”
The lucky winners described themselves as ordinary people who worked hard all their lives, loved their family and payed their taxes. “It just happened that we won the lottery”, said Merle, while Patricia talked about taking things step by step. As for their plans of what to do with the money, they mentioned things like helping their family, investing, saving, and buying a car. Married for over 40 years, the couple is now enjoying a wealthy retirement.
Anonymous – Kansas
The owner of the 3rd winning ticket of the historic Mega Millions jackpot comes from Kansas, whose laws allowed the lucky winner to remain anonymous. He chose not to reveal his identity or give any statements to the press, leaving lottery officials to celebrate the auspicious occasion with horns, confetti, balloons, cake, and punch in the company of a cardboard cut-out. The only details revealed about the winner is that he is a 6-foot tall shadowy figure made of poster board and sporting a smiley face.
Speaking about winners, Dennis Wilson, Executive Director of the Kansas Lottery said: “They were still in awe they had won it. They’re like all of us. They think about the possibility of winning, but they never think that’s it’s going to happen to them.”
In the same statement, lottery officials let slip a few details on how the winner received the news: he made sure 10 times that the numbers he was seeing were real, then he called the official Topeka lottery office at 8:30 in the morning. Just 2 hours later, the anonymous winner appeared with a lawyer and two advisers to fill in the necessary documentation. Finally, he received his money by bank transfer.
3. US$ 648 Million – California & Georgia
One year after it distributed the record jackpot of US $656 million, Mega Millions marked another benchmark, delivering the second largest amount in the history of this lottery. A $648 million jackpot was split between 2 winning tickets owners, each of them winning a staggering $324 million. This happened in the draw of December 17th, 2013, and the lucky numbers were 8, 14, 17, 20, and 39, with a Mega Ball 7.
One of the lucky winners was Steve Tran from California. Although excited and rather nervous before picking up his prize, he told his story to the media. He bought his Mega Millions ticket during a family trip to San José, so he did not pay much attention to the draw and put the ticket aside. Then he saw on the news that one of the jackpot winners was from his city. After checking the results on his ticket, he smiled, hugged his wife and sent the following message to his boss: “I’m really sorry, boss. I hit the jackpot. I don’t think I’m going to come in today, tomorrow — or ever.”
The other winning ticket belonged to a 56-year-old woman from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Ira Curry was driving home from work when she heard on the radio that the winning Mega Ball was 7. She had played with 7 as it was the lucky number for her whole family. So, she called her daughter to check the ticket. Curry, her husband, and other family members came to lottery headquarters to claim the prize, surprising lottery officials who thought the winner was going to take some time to get their affairs in order before coming forward.
4. US$536 Million
The draw of July 8th, 2016 made a single jackpot winner. For weeks, everybody remained curious to find out who the big winner of the $536 million prize was, but nobody came up to the claim the pot. After almost a month, news came out that it was cashed in by a family from Indiana. It seems that they had actually forgotten they bought lottery tickets.
They stumbled upon them by accident and couldn’t believe their eyes when they found out that they had won the first prize. The Indiana family wished to remain anonymous to “maintain a sense of normalcy” for their two children. They managed to do so by having their prize collected by a legal trust. They chose the lump sum payout for their jackpot worth $378 million, which finally came down to $271 million after taxes.
So many amazing stories, and so many amazing chances to win.
Go for it, play the US Mega Millions and see if you’re the next winner!