The jackpot for the coming drawing of the Mega Millions lottery has ballooned to more than $1 billion, the fourth highest prize ever, its US organiser announced on Wednesday.
The Mega Millions grand prize has been steadily growing, along with players' dreams of fortune, for more than three months, with no one correctly guessing the six magic numbers in 29 previous drawings.
Friday's estimated jackpot sits at a little more than $1bn, Mega Millions announced in a press release.
That represents an increase of about $200 million over Tuesday's top prize, which attracted so many players that the Mega Millions website was down for more than two hours, the group said.
Todd Graves, the founder and chief executive of fast-food chicken chain Raising Cane's, announced on Twitter that he had bought 50,000 tickets for the Tuesday drawing and planned to share any prize money with his 50,000 employees.
Since none of those tickets hit the jackpot, the company plans to again shell out $100,000 for the next drawing, co-chief executive AJ Kumaran told CNN on Wednesday.
The odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot are one in 303 million — far higher than the one-in-a-million chance of being struck by lightning, US government data show.
Friday's total is about half a billion dollars less than the world record, set in January 2016 by America's other national lotto, the Powerball, though that sum was split among three winners.
The second highest prize ever — and the highest won by a single person — was in an October 2018 Mega Millions drawing for $1.5bn.
The $1bn figure for Friday's drawing represents the total amount a winner would be entitled to if they accepted the prize split up over a 30-year annuity.
If the lucky person decided instead to take the winnings as a one-time cash payment, the total amount would decrease to $602.5m, Mega Millions estimates.
Winners are generally advised to immediately seek assistance from financial advisers, even before claiming the prize money.
Financial planner Robert Pagliarini also recommended that big winners “step outside the craziness of the situation for a moment”.
“Make a list of who and what you love about your life that you don't want to change,” he advised in a blog post.