These Are the Only States Where You Can’t Play the Mega Millions Lottery

After tonight, one lucky person could soon by half-a-billion dollars richer than they were this morning. As of July 24, the Mega Millions jackpot has reached $522 million. That’s the fifth-largest prize ever for the multi-state lottery game and the 11th-largest lottery jackpot of all time.

No one has picked the winning six Mega Millions numbers since May 4, when someone in Ohio won $142 million. The jackpot has been growing ever since.

Lottery fever tends to strike whenever jackpots swell to huge amounts, with plenty of people willing to fork over $2 in exchange for a chance to become a millionaire overnight. But there are some Americans who won’t get a chance to participate in this mega-big Mega Millions drawing.

The states where you can’t play Mega Millions

Mega Millions Lottery ticket

Powerball and Mega Millions lottery tickets | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You can play Mega Millions in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But six states don’t participate in the lottery. They are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • Utah

These six states don’t have state lotteries and don’t participate in big jackpot games like Mega Millions and Powerball.

How you can play the lottery anyway

If you live in a state without a lottery, there’s a relatively easy way to get your hands on a ticket: Simply cross the border into a neighboring state where the lottery is legal.

Whenever jackpots get big, lottery tickets sales basically double, the owner of a convenience store near the Georgia-Alabama state line told WHNT News. That’s due in part to Alabamians streaming into the Peach State to try their luck. Likewise, Nevadans can head to California to buy their lottery tickets, while Utah residents can make their way to Idaho. Of course, if you live in Alaska or Hawaii, traveling to a state with a lottery is a bit more difficult.

Why some states don’t have a lottery

Powerball lottery

Lottery prize | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Lotteries are big business, with people spending $70 billion on tickets in 2014 alone. Since roughly 40% of that money goes back to the government to use for services like schools, most states are pretty eager to participate. So why are those six outlier states turning up their noses at the extra funds?

The reasons vary, according to a 2015 report by the BBC. In Nevada, the gambling industry is opposed to a state-run lottery that could take a chunk of its revenues, and the state already gets significant revenues from casinos as it is. In Utah, the powerful Mormon church is opposed. Religious and moral objections take center stage in conservative states like Alabama and Mississippi as well. In Hawaii, there’s a fear that a lottery could negatively affect the tourism industry, while in Alaska, oil revenues are so high that the state apparently doesn’t feel the need to further line its pockets.

That doesn’t mean that these states couldn’t embrace the lottery in the future. Politicians in Hawaii have suggested using revenues from a lottery program to fund programs for the homeless. The state has one of the most severe homelessness problems in the U.S. In Mississippi, lawmakers looking to increase state revenues for infrastructure projects may be asked to consider adding a state lottery during a 2018 special legislative session.

Your chances of winning the Mega Millions jackpot

Your odds of bringing home the $522 million Mega Millions jackpot are 1 in 302 million, according to Mega Millions. To put that in perspective, your chance of being struck by lightning is 1 in 1.17 million, while your odds of being bit by a shark are 1 in 3.7 million.

Want to take your chances anyway? While there’s no secret trick to picking the right lottery numbers, you could try choosing overdue numbers or unpopular numbers. Some players swear by picking the same numbers over and over again. Of course, there’s one surefire way to increase your odds of winning – just buy more tickets.

The next Mega Millions drawing will take place on July 24 at 11 p.m. E.T.

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