Who wants to be a billionaire? Americans cross fingers for record lottery

The lottery in the United States of America is valued at over R1 billion.
The lottery in the United States of America is valued at over R1 billion.
Image: 123RF/tawhy

It could be a great way to kick off the weekend.

The prize for Friday's Mega Millions contest in the United States has soared to $1 billion, representing the largest jackpot in global lottery history if claimed by a single winner.

Lines were forming Friday morning at gas stations and 7-11s across the 44 states, the federal capital Washington and the US Virgin Islands where the lottery is held, with the draw to take place at 11:00pm local time (0300 GMT).

The previous largest single jackpot of $758.7 million was won last year by Mavis Wanczyk, a 53-year-old mother of two from Massachusetts.

In 2016, a $1.6 billion Powerball prize was split three ways by ticket holders from California, Florida and Tennessee. Each took home $528.8 million.

The game, which was created in 2002, has seen changes over the years that have reduced the chances of winning, meaning bigger and bigger jackpots.

If someone picks the winning six numbers, they can either claim the jackpot in 30 payments over 30 years -- the so-called annuity option -- or take a reduced amount in a lump sum.

On Friday, that would be a total of $565 million -- before taxes, according to the Mega Millions website.

The likelihood of that happening? One in 302.5 million.

US lottery winnings are taxable at the federal level, unlike in many other countries, while some states also impose local taxes.

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