Attention turns to Mega Millions after California store sells winning Powerball ticket

21 July 2023

Lottery dreamers are setting their sights on the growing Mega Millions jackpot drawing on Friday after a ticket worth more than $1 billion was sold for the Powerball lottery. Here’s a look at how this drawing compares to other jackpots and why these winnings have become so high.

HOW DOES THIS LATEST MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT STACK UP?

The new jackpot for the Mega Millions drawing has reached an estimated $720 million, making it the game’s fifth highest. It hasn’t yet broken into the top 10 highest lottery jackpots in U.S. history, though.

If someone picks all five numbers, plus the gold Mega Ball, they will have the option of taking the prize in yearly increments paid over 29 years or a $369.6 million lump sum before taxes. The last time a Mega Millions player hit the top prize was April 18. The jackpot will continue growing until someone wins.

POWERBALL WINNING TICKET

Most of the attention had been on Powerball until a winning ticket was drawn this week. Sold at a tiny neighborhood store in downtown Los Angeles, it is worth an estimated $1.08 billion, the sixth largest in U.S. history and the third largest in the history of the game. The winning numbers for Wednesday night’s drawing were: white balls 7, 10, 11, 13, 24 and red Powerball 24.

WHY ARE LOTTERY JACKPOTS SO LARGE THESE DAYS?

That’s how the games have been designed. The credit for such big jackpots comes down to math and more difficult odds. In 2015, the Powerball lottery lengthened the odds of winning from 1 in 175.2 million to 1 in 292.2 million. Mega Millions followed two years later by lengthening the odds of winning the top prize from 1 in 258.9 million to 1 in 302.6 million. The largest lottery jackpots in the U.S. have come since those changes were made.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST JACKPOTS EVER WON IN AMERICA?

The largest — a whopping $2.04 billion — was a Powerball jackpot that hit on Nov. 8, 2022, with the winning ticket sold in California. The next largest jackpot also was a Powerball prize of $1.586 billion on Jan. 13, 2016. But that prize was split among three winning tickets sold in California, Florida and Tennessee. The third, fourth and fifth largest were each Mega Millions prizes, with $1.537 billion going to a single winner in South Carolina on Oct. 23, 2018; $1.35 billion won in Maine on Jan. 13 earlier this year; and $1.337 billion won in Illinois on July 29, 2022.

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?

Experts have long cautioned the lottery acts as regressive tax on the poor, with those least able to afford to lose money buying the most tickets. Many of the ticket buyers don’t even consider the lottery as gambling, said Lia Nower, a professor and the director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University.

“People buy them for little kids,” she said. “So it’s sort of the gateway drug for introduction into gambling. And yet there’s, you know, there’s no responsible gambling program for lottery tickets. There isn’t self-exclusion in states that allow you to purchase them online or limits betting or any of the different strategies that are employed in online casinos or sports wagering.”

WHERE IS MEGA MILLIONS PLAYED?

Mega Millions is played in 45 states as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Nicholas Ingram contributed from Kansas City, Missouri.

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