Mega Millions Lottery Jackpot Hits $173 Million For Holiday Players

PHOTO: There were no winners for Tuesday nights Mega Millions drawing so the grand prize has risen to $173 million for the drawing, Dec. 23, 2011.
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This holiday season there'd be nothing jollier than to hit the jackpot! This Christmas, some may just be that lucky.

The Mega Millions jackpot has jumped to a whopping $173 million for the next drawing this Friday evening, before Christmas Eve. This comes after no players matched all six numbers in Tuesday night's drawing for the multi-state lottery's top prize which was estimated at $152 million.

Tuesday night's numbers were – 20, 24, 27, 45, 51, with the "Mega Ball" of 31. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, one Georgia player matched the first five numbers and started off the holidays with a $250,000 prize.

The closest and most recent winners of holiday's past were on December 22nd, 2009 when Richard and Mary Morrison of New York won $165 million.

"It was a miracle," said Richard Morrison. "We were facing potential bankruptcy and losing our house, but after 20 years of running homeless family shelters the universe gave back to us."

The Morrisons didn't experience such a smooth payout. The State Supreme Court sought to block their Mega Millions lottery lump sum check after the Suffolk County Comptroller's Office accused the couple of overbilling the county for homeless shelters they once ran. They are still disputing this in court.

"I would advise players to not be foolish if they win and take it as a blessing, especially this time of year," said Morrison. "We're still the same people, we started a foundation, helped other not for profits, are opening a restaurant, and have helped our daughters and grand children."

On Christmas Eve of 2002, another New York grand prize, this one $68 million, went unclaimed. That unwitting winner could gain some bad company next week. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported that the 180-day reporting deadline for a winning June 29 Powerball ticket (numbers 24, 30, 45, 57 and 59 and the "Power Ball" of 26) sold at the Pilot Travel Center in Georgia is set to expire on Monday. If its owner fails to come forward, the $77 million jackpot will be tossed back into the prize pool to be paid out to future, more attentive winners.

Christy Calicchia , spokeswoman for the New York Lottery, tells ABC News there hasn't been an actual Christmas Eve or Christmas Day winner in the history of the Mega Millions.

"It's always a good fortune when someone wins a jackpot around holiday time," said Calicchia.

The odds of winning Mega Millions' top prize are about 1 in 176 million, but this certainly isn't stopping people from dreaming big this holiday season.

It Keeps Rolling And Rolling

The Mega Millions jackpot as rolled over 14 times since November 4th, while the Powerball jackpot has rolled over eight times since November 23rd.

"This isn't unusual, it's rather average," said Calicchia. "If there is no winner on Friday the jackpot is sure to go up, however we won't know what that estimate is until Friday."

According to their website, the Mega Millions holds the record for the largest jackpot in North America. Each drawing is strictly monitored with security and are videotaped. Drawing machines and ball sets are randomly selected and certified by outside auditors and each piece of equipment undergoes a series of pre-drawing tests.

The drawing process takes approximately 3 hours for sets up and then takes less than 60 seconds to announce winning numbers.

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