The latest Mega Millions jackpot mirrors the game's history — it's getting bigger and more popular.
Tuesday's drawing will be for a whopping $586 million. The first drawing for this jackpot took place Oct. 4 for $12 million. Twenty one straight drawings have failed to produce a jackpot winner, making this the longest period of time since a Mega Millions ticket has been drawn.
This multistate lottery game has been around since 1996. Originally it was called the Big Game with six states participating. The name changed to Mega Millions in 2002, and today 43 states, plus the District of Columbia and Virgin Islands, participate in the jackpot, according to the Mega Millions website.
In 2010, Mega MIllions and Powerball entered an agreement where states participating in each lottery game would sell tickets for both drawings.
One key change that may be contributing to the size of jackpots occurred in October. Mega Millions set a minimum jackpot of $15 million and created new rules for how numbers are chosen. Originally, customers chose five numbers from 1-56 and one number from 1-46. The new structure has customers choosing five numbers from 1-75 and one number from 1-15. The game also added different prize levels.
The result? You now have a better chance of winning a prize (1 in 15 chances), but the odds are longer to win the entire jackpot (1 in 259 million compared with 1 in 176 million previously), said Paula Otto, lead director of Mega Millions and executive director of Virginia Lottery, in an interview with USA TODAY Network.
That means jackpots continue to get larger. And as jackpots get larger, the number of people who don't ordinarily play join the mix. In Virginia, for example, about one-third of the state's adults have played the lottery at least once in the last month but participation grows in weeks like this when there is a "phenomenal jackpot," Otto said.
Tuesday's drawing still doesn't exceed the Mega Millions' biggest prize. In 2012, a world record $656 million jackpot was split three ways.
As for the current $586 million top prize, it's "very possible" it could grow even more on Tuesday, Otto said. Many lottery sales happen on the day of the drawing — although weather could impact sales. Another factor: This is the first huge jackpot drawing right before Christmas.
"We're not certain what that will mean for consumer spending habits — if people are holding back on some dollars they might've spent on the lottery because they have to buy more holidays gifts, or a lot of people will be out and about and help sales," Otto said. "It could go either way."