Mega Millions jackpot climbs to $344 million – highest this year

The jackpot in the Mega Millions lottery will be $344 million for Tuesday’s drawing – the biggest this year -- after a two-week winless streak was extended Friday night.

The 11 p.m. ET drawing could result in a near-record U.S. payout, after no one claimed the top prize of $297 million on Friday.

The previous record Mega Millions payout -- $656 million in March 2012 – was split three ways, with each winner taking home $157.8 million after taxes.

More recently, an anonymous ticket holder in Anne Arundel County, Md., won $189 million on Oct. 1, though that prize that remains unclaimed.

If a single winner were to claim Tuesday’s prize and chose a cash prize instead of an annuity, it would amount to $184 million, according to the Mega Millions website.

The increase in prize values is partly because of rule changes lottery officials instituted on Oct. 22, aimed at creating bigger and faster-growing jackpots. Mega Millions is legal in 43 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.