Mega millions march 27 2012, Officials have also raised the cash jackpot estimate to $259 million, up from $255 million. While the annuity payout will not set a record, the cash payout, whatever it amounts to, will be a record. The final numbers for the jackpot won't be known until after ticket sales are final.

Prior to tonight's jackpot, the record for Mega Millions' top cash prize had been set on January 4, 2011. The annuity jackpot for that drawing was $380 Million, which is still the second largest in history. Two tickets, one sold in Idaho and another in Washington both won the jackpot and split the prize, splitting the cash option jackpot of $240 million.

The reason the annuity jackpot for tonight's drawing is not a record is because lotteries like Mega Millions and its multi-jurisdictional rival Powerball use the interest accrued during the annuity period to accumulate the extra money. The interest rate being used for that estimate now is lower than in 2011.

The highest annuity jackpot of all time was set on March 6, 2007, with a Mega Millions jackpot of $390 million. That jackpot was won by two tickets, one each from Georgia and New Jersey, with both of those winners splitting the cash payout for that jackpot, $233 million, which after tonight will be the third highest cash payout in history.

Given the way the jackpot has been rising, if there is no winner in tonight's drawing, the Friday March 30 drawing would almost certainly set a record for an annuity jackpot. Naturally that would mean yet another record breaking cash payout value.

Mega Millions drawings take place at 11 p.m. Eastern time Tuesdays and Fridays, including holidays. The odds of winning are about 1 in 176 million.

The annuity payout is paid in 26 annual installments. Rival Powerball pays its annuity payouts in 30 installments.