What Chicagoans Would Do With A $1.6B Mega-Win | WBEZ
Skip to main content


What Chicagoans Would Do With A $1.6B Mega-Win

Updated Oct. 23 at 8 AM

Pay off student loans? (with plenty to spare!) Buy up property near the future Obama Presidential Center? Buy an island?

The possibilities are endless for someone who will eventually match all six numbers and win the Mega Millions jackpot, which has soared to an all-time high of $1.6 billion. The odds are insanely terrible – one in 302.5 million – but a winner could emerge as soon as Tuesday night, when the next drawing is held. 

Here's what Chicagoans from Austin, Hyde Park, River West and South Shore said they'd do with their Mega-winnings when the pot was at $900 million:

That got us thinking: What are nine things you should know if you’re caught up in the now $1.6 billion Mega Millions mania? Here they are in three sections:

Benevolent things you could do if you win:

  1. Close this year’s City of Chicago budget deficit -- about 9 times.

  2. Help curb Chicago’s gun violence by creating thousands of jobs. WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell took a crack at this idea.

  3. This would be chump change for you: Dole out $38.7 million to hundreds of thousands of Chicago drivers who were deprived of their right to contest red-light tickets.

Reality check if you hit the jackpot:

  1. Taxes: In general, taxes eat up nearly half of winnings. For winners of $5,000 or more, all states automatically deduct 24 percent in federal taxes but state taxes vary widely. Also, you’ll owe more at tax time as you’ll suddenly be in a tax bracket up to 37 percent. And, no, you can't just cash one of those oversized checks shown with smiling faces on the evening news. Payment speed varies by state, but a week or two is common.

  2. Anonymity: Sorry, Illinois winner(s). If you plan to quit your job and run off to your new private island in the Bahamas, you’ll have to show your face first. Only six states allow winners to remain anonymous.

  3. Self-exclusion list: Are you on it? In Illinois, people who think they have a gambling problem can sign themselves up for a program that restricts their gambling. That includes giving up lottery winnings.

Things that are more likely to happen to you than winning this Mega Millions:

  1. Achieving sainthood. The odds are one in 20 million, according to the Boston Globe.

  2. Getting hit by lightning. The odds are one in 3,000 during your lifetime, writes the National Geographic.

  3. Sighting a UFO in Illinois. The odds are one in 224,200, according to Casino.org

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.