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Players on edge for record US$1.6b jackpot in US Mega Millions drawing

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The lucky numbers 5, 28, 62, 65, 70 and the Mega Ball 5 were drawn on Tuesday night.

[NEW YORK] The Mega Millions drawing was held on Tuesday night with a record-setting US$1.6 billion prize on line that has Americans dreaming of buying homes, cars, helping financially strapped friends and family and early retirement.

The lucky numbers 5, 28, 62, 65, 70 and the Mega Ball 5 were drawn on Tuesday night.

Anyone who hits all six numbers to win the jackpot can choose an immediate cash payment of US$904 million or receive the US$1.6 billion prize over 29 years.

The Mega Millions jackpot and a Powerball lottery prize that stands at US$620 million, have spread lottery fever across the United States in recent days.

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On Tuesday morning, a few customers waited in line at a newsstand in the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City to purchase last-minute tickets. Fernando Chavez, 27, said if he wins he would immediately hire a financial adviser.

"I'd buy a few properties, get my family in order and share with my neighbourhood," said Mr Chavez, who lives in the Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan.

Experts caution that the winner or winners will face many headaches that come along with their newfound riches.

"A big mistake people think: this is a lot of money so let me help everyone," Laurie Ruckel, a trusts and estates lawyer at Loeb & Loeb law firm in New York, said on Tuesday. "There are plenty of people who know how to exploit that ignorance."

Ms Ruckel said the crush of publicity that falls on a lottery winner is something that most people do not usually experience, even those with a high net-worth. She said prize recipients should create a trust and hire a team of lawyers, financial advisers and security.

Mega Millions set a record for lottery jackpots after nobody won the US$1 billion prize on Friday. The previous record was a US$1.586 billion jackpot for a Powerball drawing in 2016.

Lottery players face odds of 1 in 303 million of winning the Mega Millions drawing. That is up from one in 259 million a year ago; the change was made to generate larger prizes.

In comparison, the odds of getting killed by a shark are one in 3.7 million in a lifetime, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Tickets sold for Tuesday's drawing are expected to cover 75 per cent of all possible number combinations, lottery officials said.

Wednesday's Powerball lottery prize stands at US$620 million, making it the fifth-largest jackpot in US history, after no one got all six numbers in Saturday's drawing. The lump sum cash payout is estimated at US$354.3 million.

The US$1.6 billion jackpot, a jaw-dropping amount to the average person who can afford a US$2 ticket, is still less than two weeks of profit for Apple Inc. A US$1.5 million investment in Microsoft Corp in 1986 would be worth about US$1.6 billion today.

If more than one person wins, the jackpots would be divided proportionately, as happened in 2012 with a Mega Millions jackpot of US$656 million, a lottery official said.

Mega Millions tickets are sold in 44 US states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. Several states allow online ticket purchases, but they prohibit out-of-state and foreign purchases.

States receive a percentage of lottery ticket sales and then use the money to support public schools or meet other needs.

Both lottery jackpots have been increased recently by rule changes that have reduced the chances of winning.

REUTERS