04/02/2012 :  MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT SPLIT THREE WAYS
 
Taken in a lump sum, the windfall will be about $105.1 million for each winner
 
The $656 million US lottery jackpot on Mega Millions dominated most of the mainstream news media over the weekend, with news stories and articles covering everything from what the winners could do with the bonanza to drawing analogies with the game of golf, to news items like the man who was struck by lightning after buying a ticket.
 
Certainly the jackpot, which was up at $656 million by the time the draw took place, thanks to frenzied buying across those US states that permit the lottery, was an all-time record even for America.
 
It has now been confirmed that there were three winning tickets – bought in Milford Mill, Maryland, near Baltimore, Red Bud in southern Illinois and a store in northeastern Kansas.
 
The jackpot will be shared among the three, with the retail sellers each getting around $100 000.
 
Winners have the choice of either a one-time payment of their share or 26 annual installment payments.
 
The three tickets were each worth more than $213 million before taxes, if the payout was over 26 years. If taken in a lump sum, the windfall would be about $105.1 million per winner, officials said.
 
Lottery officials said well over a billion lottery tickets were sold for the big draw, and revealed that at least two of the winners' tickets were "quick picks" – meaning all six numbers of the Mega Millions lottery computer selected the lucky numbers announced at the drawing Friday night in Atlanta: 2-4-23-38-46 and Mega Ball 23.
 
The US government will collect a nice bonus from the winners as well – lottery winnings of more than $5,000 are subject to a 25-percent federal withholding tax.
 
In addition to the three jackpot winners, there were three tickets that matched the Mega Ball number to win $1 million each and 158 tickets that picked five of the six chosen numbers to win $250,000 each.
 
The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in 2007, which was split between two ticket holders in Georgia and New Jersey.
 
About half the lottery money goes back to ticket holders in the form of winnings, 35 per cent to state governments and 15 percent to retailer commissions and lottery operating expenses.