Added by Erik West on March 31, 2012
The winners – who each stand to pocket about $213 million before tax – did not immediately come forward and lottery officials said there would be no need for them to reveal their identities.
The country was engulfed by lottery mania as the clock ticked down to the drawing of the numbers for the Mega Millions in Atlanta on Friday night.
Americans spent about $1.5 billion (£937 million) for the chance to strike lucky.
The Maryland Lottery was the first to announce a winner, saying it has sold a ticket with the correct six numbers at a 24-hour convenience store on a commuter route outside Baltimore.
The storeowners will receive $100,000 (£65,500) for selling the winning slip.
Officials in Illinois and Kansas later confirmed that they both had winners whose ticket sequences also ran 02-04-23-38-46, and the Mega Ball 23.
The jackpot had mushroomed into the largest lottery in world history after the previous drawing three days earlier failed to produce a winner.
Some 625 million tickets are thought to have been sold, more than two for every American resident, even though statistically it was an extremely poor bet.
The odds of winning – at 176 million-to-one, the average American was more likely to be struck by lightning twice or killed by a falling vending machine – did nothing to deter the mania.
Long queues snaked out of corner stores as buyers lined up to try their chances. Many discussed how they would spend the money if they won.
“You won’t be seeing me again, I’m off to buy myself a tropical island,” said George Thompson, 46, a New York construction worker.
Others had more philanthropic aspirations.
“Sure, I’d keep some back for myself and my family, but I’d give most of it away to deserving causes,” said Irena Gomez, an officer worker who was next in the queue. “Nobody needs that much money.”
The jackpot jumped from $540 million on Thursday to $640 million on Friday as the hopeful went on a final-day ticket-buying spree.
A single winner would have been able to claim yearly payments or a one-time cash option of $462 million, Mega Millions spokeswoman Kelly Cripesaid.
The previous largest Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million in 2007, and was split between two ticket holders in Georgia and New Jersey.
About half of the lottery money is paid out to ticket holders in the form of winnings, 35 percent to state governments and 15 percent to retailer commissions and lottery operating expenses.