Powerball vs. Mega Millions: 4 Key Differences

Powerball and Mega Millions are both American lotteries played across the country. Gamblers choose either of the lotteries based on the best games and chances of winning.

Powerball and Mega Millions have four key differences, which are mainly found in the amount of money won, the difference in annuity payments, and the odds of winning. There is also a difference in increases of the jackpots.

In this article, we look at the two main differences and also take a look at what makes them more similar. It also explains how a lottery game works. Keep on reading.

The Difference in the Method of Playing

The Difference in the Method of Playing

Mega Millions draws five balls from a lot of 70, while Powerball draws a similar number of five balls from its lot of 69. Also, Powerball players select one number between 0-26 as their power ball while mega million players select a ball between 1-25 to be their mega ball.

Given the slim chances of picking the winning lottery, most people playing these lotteries tend to choose the most frequently picked numbers. These are actually past winning numbers like 13, 8, 29, 54, and 14. Powerball uses their Quick Picks computer system to generate random number combinations while Mega Millions uses a Random Number Generator.

However, no system of choosing the numbers is better than the other.

You can try your luck in both games without risking your money with the help of our lottery number generator.

The Odds of Winning in Each Lottery

The Odds of Winning in Each Lottery

The odds of winning in Mega Millions were 1 in 3 million while in Powerball, they were 1 in 2.9 million in 2018, and they haven’t changed much. These odds have remained relatively the same even though each company has offered a maximum jackpot of $1.5 billion.

Powerball sells their winning ticket at two dollars, which is the same price as a Mega Millions ticket. However, before, Mega Millions would sell the ticket at one dollar only. At the time, the $2 gave you a chance to win a jackpot of $40 million from Powerball and the $1 earned you the chance to win $15 million from Mega Millions. Both companies competitively offer large sums of money to outdo each other.

The Increase in the Jackpot

The Increase in the Jackpot

Mega Millions multiplies the jackpot five times. On the other hand, Powerball multiplies its jackpot from the 3rd to the 9th division by up to 10 times.

The Differences in Annuity Payments

The Differences in Annuity Payments

The annuity payment option differs between Mega Millions and Powerball. An annuity payment means that the Lottery will make the payments to the winner over a set period of time. The money used for the payments is drawn from the jackpot prize pool.

Powerball jackpot winners get to receive 30 graduated payments in the annuity format and the payment increases 5% by the last sum. Mega Million jackpot winners, on the other hand, receive 26 annual payments.

The differences in the annuity are brought by the different ways that both lotteries fund their annuity, which means they have a different return on investment.

To see how the payouts would look like, check out our lottery annuity payout calculator.

Similarities in Mega Millions and Powerball

Both Offer a Jackpot

Both Offer a Jackpot

The lotteries are usually in lockstep when it comes to the amount of money they offer in their Jackpot. The estimated Jackpot for Powerball is $42 million by the 28th of June, 2020, while that for Mega Millions is an estimated $35 million by the 23rd of June, 2020. Of course, the difference of seven million dollars is significant, but the Mega Millions Jackpot can go higher if no one has the winning numbers by this date.

Both Have Nine Ways to Win

The lotteries both have nine ways in which players can win, ranging from the grand prize of the jackpot to the least amount, which for Powerball is $4, while for Mega Millions is $2. Here are the nine plays for Powerball and Mega Millions:

PowerballMega Millions
Match five white balls + Powerball = JackpotMatch five white balls + Mega ball = Jackpot
Match five white balls = $1,000,000Match five white balls = $1,000,000
Match four white balls + Powerball = $50,000Match four white balls + Mega ball = $10,000
Match four white balls = $100Match four white balls = $500
Match three white balls + Powerball = $100Match three white balls + Mega ball = $200
Match three white balls = $7Match three white balls = $10
Match two white balls + Powerball = $7Match two white balls + Mega ball = $10
Match one white ball + Powerball = $4Match one white ball + Mega ball = $4
Match the powerball = $4Match the Mega ball = $2

You can compare the odds for these prize levels with this tool..

Both Are available in the Same Regions

Both Are available in the Same Regions

Both games are available in 45 states as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. Monies collected by the states participating in the lottery contribute to funds used in roadwork, social services, and even to boost community efforts in police work. The funds mainly address any shortfall the state may experience in their budget in addition to being used in addressing issues like gambling addiction.

Some states have a set allocation of the funds going to their education system. From states like Arizona, Arkansas, British Columbia to Delaware, Florida, Illinois and Indiana, among others, the revenue collected from these lotteries is used to fund various projects including:

  • The multiple sclerosis research fund in Illinois
  • Illinois teachers pension fund
  • Illinois Veteran Assistance Fund
  • Lottery for Education Account in Georgia
  • Education Enhancement Trust Fund in Florida
  • Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife
  • Colorado conservation trust fund
  • The government of British Columbia
  • Court-appointed Special advocate fund in Arizona
  • Homeless shelters in Arizona
  • Tribal college dual enrollment program
  • Baltimore city schools
  • Horse racing industry in Maryland
  • Small, minority and women-owned business in Maryland
  • Capital construction fund in South Dakota
  • Senior citizens fund in West Virginia
  • The Washington Opportunity pathways account
  • Culture and Communication ministry in Quebec

The list is even longer than this. In fact, according to the state of California, 95 cents of each dollar spent on a lottery game is channeled back to the community through funds to the colleges, public schools, and retail compensation.

States are able to benefit from millions of dollars earned through lottery games because as the jackpot grows, the number of ticket sales also skyrockets, earning these games billions of dollars. This revenue is divided into three categories:

  • Commissions to the ticket sale companies and payouts to the winners
  • Distribution to the state
  • Overhead costs

Approximately 60% goes into the prize money, 10% goes into the paying of the overhead costs while 5% goes into paying retailers for ticket sales. The rest of the funds go to the state. The more lottery tickets the state sells, the more revenue it generates, which means that the funds they receive from the games are much higher.

Both Have Similar Payout Methods

Both Have Similar Payout Methods

Both Mega Millions and Powerball give winners the option to receive their winnings as an annuity or as a cash lump sum. If one chooses the lump sum, they receive a one-time payment from the lottery. It is important to note that the amount received in cash is lower than the advertised due to the taxes and regulations applicable in the winner’s resident state.

Most people prefer to take the route of annuity payment because there is less of a risk of misusing your money and ending up with nothing. The annuity option guarantees the winner a hefty income for decades when managed properly. This can free one from having to work for the rest of their life as you have a built-in limit on how much even you can give to charity foundations, and also, you don’t have unfettered access to it.

However, the appeal of having all your winnings at the same time cannot be understated. This is why the lump sum option is often the bane of some winners. You can easily lose control of the money and how you spend it, not to mention having to deal with the taxes imposed on such a huge lump of money.

Since both lotteries offer the same payout methods, it is important for the winner of either lottery to determine which option works well for their needs. The good news is that lottery winners have between 3-12 months before the lottery needs to be cashed.

History of Powerball

History of Powerball

Technically, Powerball started in 1988 when it was known as Lotto America, a multi-state game. In 1992, the name of the game was changed to Powerball. It was the first lottery game to use drums for their draws.

The game used two drums, which allowed them to have more room for manipulation when it came to jackpot odds as well as draws on numerous prize levels. The concept of two drums has since then been utilized by other lotteries, including Mega Millions, the UK’s Thunderball, and EuroMillions.

For a long time since the lottery changed to Powerball, the drawings were hosted by Mike Pace, a longtime radio personality from Iowa. Pace had experience hosting drawings as he performed the same job for MUSL (Multi-State Lottery Association).

The format has changed over the years with the aim of increasing the frequency of the nine-figure Jackpots. The formats changed in 2012 and 2015 to improve the chances of winning any of their prizes. Powerball’s largest jackpot win was 1.586 billion won in January of 2016. Between 50 and 60 % of the sales from Powerball go back into the prize money for the winners.

History of Mega Millions

History of Mega Millions

Mega Million came into the lottery game under the name The Big Game back in 1996, after which it temporarily renamed itself The Big Game Mega Millions. It is now officially known as Mega Millions. This lottery began in six states but has grown to 45 states now.

The game has undergone various changes in the format allowing players to have greater chances to win the jackpot. The largest jackpot by mega millions was the 1.537 billion jackpot won in October of 2018.

Mega Millions original host in its first draws was the Chief Meteorologist for WSB, Glenn Burns, but he was replaced by the Georgia Lottery draws host, John Crow.

It is important to note that both lotteries use veteran draw hosts because they understand and follow the best practices in drawing to give credibility to the winnings. Nearly 60% of the sales from Mega Millions is returned to players in the form of prizes.

The Advantages of Playing Powerball

The Advantages of Playing Powerball

Powerball is extremely popular and the following reasons below should explain why.

It Offers Massive Jackpots

Powerball is one of the lotteries that offers the best jackpot options. Powerball has always been at the forefront of giving the highest payouts starting with the biggest jackpot of $1.586 billion given on the 3rd of January 2016. This ticket still holds the record for the largest jackpot value in both annuity and cash value.

Powerball is also the holder of the second and third largest jackpots on single tickets. Unlike the United States, where taxes are imposed on lottery winnings, in Europe lottery winnings are completely tax-free and the jackpots are paid out in lump sum.

Powerball has been responsible for the largest lottery fever in all of the world with the 2016 January Jackpot.

It Has Inspired Similar Lotteries

The popularity of Powerball lottery has become instrumental in inspiring spin-off lotteries worldwide. As a result, there is the Australian, UK, and South African Powerball as well as New Zealand Powerball. These countries have set up their own versions of the famous lottery, but even then, none has come close to matching the US Powerball’s famous eight-figure starting Jackpot.

You Can Play It Online

You Can Play It Online

You can participate in Powerball online from wherever you are in the United States. This has opened up the lottery to all players who can purchase their tickets through online apps. Despite the age restriction (you have to be 18 years and above to purchase a ticket), it is possible to buy a winning ticket even if you do not reside in the state with the jackpot.

It is important to know that if you are a non-US resident, the winnings are subject to the tax laws of the State where you won the jackpot.

Unfortunately, most people are scammed into believing that they can win lotteries from another country. It is illegal to buy a lottery ticket over the internet or via mail. One must be physically in the United States to be able to purchase the lottery tickets, whether online or in person. Some sites also scam people by claiming to buy the tickets for you while you are outside the country.

It Generates Revenue for Community Projects

It Generates Revenue for Community Projects

Education, social services, construction, and veterans funds are some of the areas that benefit immensely from the great revenue generated by Powerball lotteries. Some of their proceeds even go to helping raise awareness about gambling addiction through relevant programs.

While some groups argue about the responsibility of promoting the lottery games in the first place, the good work done by the money collected from Powerball, for example, is instrumental in helping communities make headway in different projects.

The Advantages of Playing Mega Millions

Mega million has a lot of similar pros to Powerball, which are listed and explained below.

It Offers Numerous Prizes and a Huge Jackpot

It Offers Numerous Prizes and a Huge Jackpot

Mega Millions is not to be underestimated, having offered the winning jackpot of 1.537 to a winner. Although the amount is slightly less than Powerball, it is just as substantial. Keep in mind that this is the second-largest Jackpot win in the United States. It also offers a number of prizes just like Powerball, so everyone is a winner with Mega Millions.

You Can Play It Online

You Can Play It Online

Mega Millions can be played online from wherever you are in the country. Using an online app, this is possible but only for people who are above the age of 18 years old. This is similar to the scenario of playing Powerball online.

It Generates Revenue for the State

It Generates Revenue for the State

Mega Millions, like other lotteries, generates revenue for the state from their ticket sales. As a result, the state is able to improve infrastructure and building or medical and educational institutions. In states like Wisconsin, the funds generated help make owning a home possible and affordable.

This means that the funds do not just help the state run efficiently, but they also help the communities in which the players and winners live.

The Downside of Playing Lotteries

The Downside of Playing Lotteries

Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction can happen to anyone who is involved in gambling, whether lottery games or casino gambling. This condition is also known as pathological gambling or gambling disorder. It is basically an impulse control disorder.

Unfortunately, compulsive gamblers cannot control their impulse to gamble and may end up endangering themselves or their loved ones in the process. This behavior may also lead to financial ruin.

How can you tell you have a gambling problem? If you are exhibiting the following signs:

  • You are preoccupied with gambling
  • You spend most of your time gambling
  • You spend most of your funds on gambling
  • You continue to gamble despite facing serious repercussions because of it

Although revenue generated from lottery sales is used on gambling addiction problems, playing in the lottery if you have any of the above symptoms places you at a higher risk of becoming addicted.

Some people tell themselves that they do not have a gambling problem because they can afford the habit, they don’t gamble daily or they are intelligent with high profile jobs. All these are myths because gambling addiction affects people with different intelligence levels, and the infrequency doesn’t mean you aren’t addicted.

Also, while you may be able to afford gambling from a financial aspect, you definitely can’t afford it from a relationship, legal, and mental aspect.

Lottery Advertisements May Not Be Truthful

Lottery Advertisements May Not Be Truthful

State lotteries are exempted from truthfulness in advertising laws and this is why they exaggerate the chances of winning or say things like the “possibilities are endless.” Because the states benefit so directly from the revenue generated by lotteries, they can exempt the commercials that typically have been blocked by the Federal Communications Commission.

It is, therefore, crucial for people playing the lotteries to approach the games with caution. Unfortunately, aggressive advertising of lotteries is done in low-income areas of the United States. Studies have shown that a disproportionately larger number of low-income Americans gamble in the lottery more frequently. The correlation may be because of the belief that they have a good chance of winning their ticket to a better life.

The over-inflated ability of the lottery to change one’s life (despite the poor odds of actually winning) tends to feed this theory.

The Rules of Playing Mega Millions and Powerball


To play Powerball, the player begins by choosing five numbers between 1 and 69 and also chooses an additional number from 1-26. It is okay if one of the numbers chosen in the latter batch is the same as a number from the former one as long as it falls between 1 and 26.

Next, you need to buy the ticket, which can be purchased for $2 from a clerk-activated terminal. So the player selects their numbers on the play slip and submits the slip to the clerk. They can also ask the retailer of the tickets for a Quick Pick. The clerk will issue a ticket from the Quick Pick terminal and it will contain the selected set of numbers.

The winning ticket is determined at a draw that is conducted under the supervision of the Multi-State Lottery Association. This association determines the frequency of the drawings for a Powerball game.

The winning numbers are drawn using mechanical equipment under the supervision of the drawing manager. The drawing manager is mandated to review the draws, which must be done randomly.

A winning ticket is required as proof of gameplay in order to claim a prize. The copy of a play slip or copy of the ticket is not considered proof of gameplay and therefore doesn’t allow one to receive the prize.

Only the grand prize will be determined on a pari-mutuel basis. All the other prizes, however, are awarded as set lump sums.

Mega Millions

To start playing, the players need to pick six numbers. Five numbers need to be from 1-70 and these are the white balls and a Mega Ball from the number 1-25. In this case, the number from the second pool can match a number from the first pool as long as it falls within the numbers 1 to 2. The starting jackpot is also based on the ticket sales, as is the same case with the Powerball jackpot.

With Mega Millions, there are some states that have a special offer known as “Just the Jackpot.” This play allows them to play for the jackpot, only using a ticket that costs $3. The ticket allows the player to have two plays but only for the jackpot, which means that they are not eligible for any other prizes. This is a very limited play and it is available in just a few states.

Megaplier, on the other hand, is offered in more states, and it increases the jackpot by two, three, four, and even five times the jackpot amount. The Megaplier is played twice a week from a pool of 15 balls. Five balls are marked with 2X, six balls are marked with 3X, three balls are marked with 4X, and one ball is marked with 5X.

Even with Mega Millions, you can ask the lottery retailer for a Quick Pick and the lottery terminal will pick a set of numbers for you. To increase your odds of winning and for added convenience, you should play your numbers for even up to 10 draws. This means you should mark the Multi-Draw box for this option.

When purchasing a Mega Millions ticket, you need to select the payment option you prefer, which is either an annuity or cash lump sum payment. In Mega Millions, the grand prize is pari-mutuel as well, just like in Powerball. This means that the grand prize will be divided equally by the grand prize winners holding the same tickets.

Only tickets purchased in the state where the jackpot and specifically from a licensed lottery retailer will allow you to claim the prize. You should sign the winning ticket before you claim it.

Final Thoughts

Powerball vs. Mega Millions is a never-ending debate, and soon enough, players realize that the two lotteries are more similar than different. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have differences. The differences include:

  • The method of playing
  • The odds of winning
  • The annuity payment

Ultimately, your lotto playing experience is defined more by personal preference rather than the massive differences in these two lotteries. Just make sure to play it responsibly.