(Iowa Lottery photo)

The Mega Millions jackpots us pushing the one billion dollar mark for tonight’s drawing.

Iowa Lottery spokesperson, Mary Neubauer, says it comes on the heels of the more than two-billion dollar Powerball jackpot in November. She says it is really hard to predict when jackpot will get this big. “There have been times when both jackpots have been into the stratosphere at the same time. Maybe this time, the games are being polite and taking turns, I don’t know,” she says.

The Mega Millions prize is estimated at $940 million, with a cash option of $483 million. Neubauer says the jackpot has been growing almost three months, and that includes the normally slow ticket-buying holiday period.

“This hasn’t been a quote, unquote, normal run, because the last few weeks, everybody has been distracted with holiday travel, and family gatherings and year-end celebrations, as you should be this time of year. But now that we’re into the new year, you know, folks are getting back into their normal routines,” Neubauer says. “And now megamillions has caught people’s attention.”

Neubauer reminds players to not get carried away with the big jackpot and to play responsibly. One issue that popped up with the large Powerball jackpot was people buying tickets after the deadline.  “Be sure to buy it here in Iowa before 8:59 p.m. If you buy one after that time, it will still be a valid ticket. It just won’t be for that night’s drawing,” Neubauer says. “And there have been people who have waited too long. I don’t know I think as human beings we’re just procrastinators. And then they’ll get an argument about what time their watch says versus what time is showing on the Lottery Terminal. It’s an automated process and it cannot be pushed back. So just don’t cut it too close.”

Large jackpots often lead to group ticket buys — which brings another warning. “During the Powerball jackpot run that just ended late last year, we had multiple office pools here in Iowa win prizes, which is so much fun because you have a whole you know, a whole group of people sharing in that prize. But one of the things that we say to people is, make sure that everybody in your group knows the rules as you’re going into the drawing,” according to Neubauer. “So one of the things we suggest is, take photos of all the tickets, and send them to everybody in your group so that everyone knows the tickets that are in play for your group.”

Neubauer says you should then keep really close track of who puts money into the pool and how much so that there’s never a question later about who was in and who was out. Neubauer says it is interesting that the Mega Millions jackpot was won six times in 2021, and six times in 2022.