If it seems like lottery jackpots are getting larger and larger, it's because they are. Friday night's Mega Millions grand prize has hit a staggering $1 billion, continuing a trend of giant jackpots. It's the second-largest lottery prize in US history and joins five other top 10 drawings in the last three years, per the AP. Lottery officials changed the odds in recent years to lessen the chance of winning a jackpot, which increased the opportunity for top prizes to reach stratospheric levels. The theory: Bigger jackpots would draw more attention, leading more players to plop down $2 for a Mega Millions or Powerball ticket. The more tickets sold, the more the jackpots grow, leading to more players and so on. Powerball first tried the theory in October 2015, when it changed the potential number combinations, and states have reported boosted Mega Millions and Powerball sales since.
But the ever-increasing jackpots have left them ever-more dependent on those massive payouts because prizes that once seemed immense (like the current $430 million Powerball jackpot) now seem almost puny in comparison. If you do win big Friday night, don't count on a deposit anywhere close to $1 billion. Nearly all winners take the cash option, about $548 million as of Friday morning. After federal taxes and state deductions, which vary in the US, winners will generally end up with around half that amount. The annuity option guarantees more money, but it's paid over 29 years and would result in a hefty tax bill. More questions answered here. (Read more Mega Millions stories.)