Mega Millions jackpot: 363M reasons to play

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The lottery is the thing that inspires dreams, and with the jackpot for the Mega Millions game at an estimated $363 million for Tuesday night's drawing, those dreams can be pretty extravagant.

According to the Arizona Lottery, this is the third largest Mega Millions prize and the fourth largest U.S. jackpot, and a mere $1 could win it all for you.

Nick Hanna, owner of the Shell station at Seventh Street and Maryland Avenue, says business booms when the lottery jackpot is big like this.

"We sell approximately at least five to 10 times more," he said. "If we sell $100 a day, today we'll sell about $500 to $700 on the Mega Millions only."

According to the Arizona Lottery's website, the 10 most drawn balls are 10, 48, 19, 20, four, 28, 29, 36, 45 and two. The most drawn gold ball is nine. The five least drawn balls are seven, 41, 44, eight and 25. The least drawn gold ball is two.

When it comes to picking your numbers, you have three options.

You can let the computer choose for you. You can choose your own numbers according to whatever formula you like. The last option is for you to choose either the white numbers or just the Megaball number and let the computer pick the rest.

There are nine winning combinations in the Mega Millions game with prizes starting at $2.

Odds of winning the whole enchilada, which means matching all five white balls plus the gold ball, are 1 in slightly less than 176 million. Odds of winning something in the game -- anything from $2 on up -- are approximately 1 on 40.

You have until 6:59 p.m. to buy you ticket for Tuesday night's drawing. If luck favors you and you win, you have 60 days to choose a 26-year annuity or a lump-sum payment. For this jackpot, the cash option would be about $259 million.

If there is a winner in Tuesday night's drawing, the jackpot will reset to $12 million. If nobody picks the winning numbers, the jackpot will roll over to Friday's drawing.

The high Mega Millions jackpot ever was $390 million. That went to two winners -- one in Georgia and one in New Jersey -- on March 6, 2007. More recently, a $380 million prize was split between two winners in Washington state and Idaho in January 2011.

A total of 41 other states and the District of Columbia also offer the Mega Millions game. Arizona joined Mega Millions on April 18, 2010.

While Arizonans have won smaller prizes in the game, no jackpot-winning Mega Millions ticket has been sold in Arizona.

According to the Arizona Lottery, money from lottery games has returned nearly $2.7 billion to the state since 1981.

"People and families all over the state are enjoying greater educational opportunities, enhancing their health and wellness, seeing significant economic and business development, and benefiting from a dedication to the environment," the Arizona Lottery's website reads.

Nearly 40 percent of the money generated goes to education, 30 percent to health and welfare, 20 percent to economic development and the remaining money to environmental endeavors.

What would you do with $363 million? Tell us below!