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Get ready for Mega Millions

A new era for lottery players begins Wednesday, May 15, as Florida adds Mega Millions, yet another game to inspire dreams of cashing in and checking out.

Mega Millions ticket sales are starting at a good time. The nationwide game's current jackpot is approaching $200 million, making that posh beach home quite affordable if you select the right six numbers.

Lotteries in Florida began in 1988. The Florida Lotto, with tickets sold only inside the state, was the dominant game for two decades. The record jackpot of $106.5 million hit in 1990. In 2009, the state added Powerball, a game now played in 43 states. This year, on Feb. 28, Florida completed its entry into big-money lotteries when state officials announced they would add Mega Millions. Tickets go on sale Wednesday; the first drawing is Friday.

The odds of winning Mega Millions are the same as Powerball – about one in 175 million. Participating states collect the profits on tickets sold inside their borders, usually about 50 cents on each dollar.

On Wednesday, Florida becomes the 43rd state to offer Mega Millions. The game joins Powerball and five other Florida games in which patrons select numbers to be drawn: Florida Lotto, Fantasy 5, Mega Money, Play 4 and Cash 3. About 60 scratch-off games are available at any time, and make up about 58 percent of all lottery sales in Florida.

Both Mega Millions and Powerball are played in every state, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, except Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska and Hawaii. So when the jackpots get large, friends from those states might ask you to buy tickets for them.

While both games can make you wealthy, Mega Millions and Powerball are slightly different. Here is an investor's guide.

MEGA MILLIONS

Drawings

11 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays at the WSB-TV studios in Atlanta

Tickets

$1

Ticket sales

Sales for both games in Florida cut off at 10 p.m. on drawing nights.

Starting jackpot

$12 million

Payout

26-year annuity or lump sum

Largest jackpot

$656 million on March 30, 2012, shared among players in Kansas, Maryland and Illinois

How it's played

Players select five of 56 from the left panel, and one of 46 from the right.

POWERBALL

Drawings

10:59 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays at Florida Lottery Headquarters in Tallahassee.

Tickets

$2

Starting jackpot

$40 million

Payout

30-year annuity

Largest jackpot

$587.7 million on Nov. 28, 2012, with winners in Arizona and Missouri. (Powerball has hit four times in Florida.)

How it's played

Powerball players choose five of 59 numbers from the left panel, and one of 35 from the right.

Copyright © 2015, South Florida
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