One winning ticket was sold in Georgia, and the other was sold in California, lottery officials said.
The winning numbers were 8, 14, 17, 20 and 39, with a Megaball of 7.
Strong sales boosted the jackpot to $636 million from the previous estimate of $586 million, lottery officials announced late Tuesday morning.
That’s tantalizingly close to the U.S. record — a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot split by three winning tickets in March 2012.
This jackpot was so large in part because Mega Millions, in a sense, became tougher to win. The prize rises with each miss, and no one has won it since organizers increased the pool of numbers to choose from — making astronomical odds even longer — back in October.
In Florida, $8,000 worth of tickets were sold every minute from 9 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, CNN affiliate WFTS reported, citing lottery officials. Mega Millions tickets go for $1 each, though buyers choose to pay an additional $1 for the Megaplier option, which could multiply lesser, non-jackpot winning prizes.
A lottery player in the Bronx joked the jackpot wouldn’t change his life.
“It would just change my vocabulary. I would say, ‘I quit’ (my job),” he told CNN affiliate News 12 of New York on Tuesday morning at a gas station in the Bronx’s Hunts Point neighborhood.
At Bunny’s Superette in Manchester, New Hampshire, a clerk told CNN affiliate WMUR that Mega Millions sales were brisk Tuesday — she’d gone through four rolls of ticket paper by noon.
One player there, Armand Lesage, said he’d like to use the jackpot to escape snowy New Hampshire for a warm vacation. But he’d also share with his large family.
“My mother had 19 of us, and that is a big family, and 14 are still living,” he told WMUR.
The chance of winning — never particularly bright — got worse in late October, when Mega Millions increased the drawing’s pool of numbers. The odds of hitting the jackpot, which were 1 in 176 million, are now 1 in 259 million.
You have more than 1,000 times better chance of an asteroid or comet killing you — and that’s using the longest estimated odds for the celestial bodies — according to Tulane University.
“Winning the Mega Millions is akin to getting struck by lightning at the same time you’re being eaten by a shark,” Todd Northrop, founder of Lotterypost.com, told CNN.
Previously, lottery players chose five numbers, ranging from 1 to 56. It’s now 1 to 75, but the sixth, gold ball has fewer numbers from which to choose, as the pool decreased from 46 to 15.
Mega Millions tickets are sold in 43 states — all but Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming — plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.