UPDATE: Jackpot numbers updated March 30.

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Another Mega Millions lottery ticket drawing came up empty Tuesday, which means the next drawing will likely pay out the highest jackpot ever – if someone actually wins. Since the previous drawing of \$363 million, which was the third-largest in the history of the Mega Millions, remains untouched, the jackpot moves up to an astronomical \$640 million. Which raises an interesting question: Could you guarantee a win by investing \$175.711 million?

If you thought the \$363 million jackpot created a lot of buzz this one will sting you in the rear. The odds of winning are 1 in 176 million and those odds won’t change — there are only so many numerical combinations possible to create a winning ticket. This makes you wonder whether there isn’t some way for a very rich person to take advantage.

If one were so inclined (and had the funds), he could theoretically spend \$175 million to buy up tickets with every possible numerical combination and claim a prize of approximately \$80 million profit if he takes a cash payout, depending on the state.

This conspiracy may actually concern some lotto players, especially since winning the lottery comes with its own set of troubles.

## Tough decision

According to USAMega.com, a website that tracks the Mega Millions and Powerball, a lump sum cash payout for this upcoming jackpot is worth \$346,500,000 after federal taxes.

In the eight states that do not take out taxes, including California and Pennsylvania, the winner would have to decide between that sum or \$18.5 million a year for 26 years, equaling \$480 million.

In New Jersey, which charges the highest state rate of 10.8% these numbers drop to \$297 million lump sum or \$411 million over 26 years.

## Investing in a gamble, or gambling on an investment?

If you were to buy up every possible ticket number combination, I would strongly advise taking that business to one of the states that will not charge taxes. There, a \$175 million investment would pay out approximately \$171.5 million immediately, or a near-doubled 98 percent return on investment. Alternatively, you could make \$305 million in 26 years, or a 174 percent ROI.

The only gamble here would be whether or not someone else wins, in which case you would have to split the prize but would still come out on top in your investment.

Stories abound where people have played the lottery, and won. Last summer we found an article that surfaced about how statisticians discovered a quirk in a Massachusetts state lotto where a \$100,000 investment in tickets yielded a bounty in smaller prizes.

With the Mega Millions jackpot swelling to unprecedented numbers, is someone secretly plotting to beat the lottery?