America's two biggest lottery games, Mega Millions and Powerball, have combined jackpots of nearly $900 million in drawings this week. The jackpot in the next Powerball drawing, to be held Wednesday, Jan. 3, is an estimated $460 million. The next Mega Millions drawing, where the jackpot is an estimated $418 million, takes place Friday, Jan. 5. A surge in ticket sales could boost both jackpots.
The acceptance of gambling in the colonies was fairly short-lived by English investors because it was seen as a sign of laziness and as a vice. The investors saw gambling as a root cause of the colonies’ inability to sustain themselves. Lotteries were used not only as a form of entertainment but as a source of revenue to help fund the colonies. The financiers of Jamestown, Virginia, for instance, funded lotteries to raise money to support their colony. These USA lotteries were quite sophisticated for the time period and even included instant winners. Not long after, each of the 13 original colonies established a lottery system to raise revenue. In early American history, legislators commonly authorized lotteries to fund schools, roads, bridges, and other public works. Evangelical reformers in the 1830s began denouncing lotteries on moral grounds and petitioned legislatures and constitutional conventions to ban them. Recurring lottery scandals and a general backlash against legislative corruption following the Panic of 1837 also contributed to anti-lottery sentiments. From 1844 to 1859 alone, 10 new state constitutions contained lottery bans. By 1890, lotteries were prohibited in every state except Delaware and Louisiana.
Jackpot winners have the choice of receiving their prize either in one single lump sum payment, or once a year with the annuity option (30 payments over 29 years). They have 60 days to decide which way they want to be paid. During these 60 days, a player who originally opted for the annuity payment is able to instead take the lump sum payment option. If they do not make a choice either way, after 60 days, the player will automatically receive their prize as an annuity.
On October 13, 2009, the Mega Millions consortium and Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL) reached an agreement in principle to cross-sell Mega Millions and Powerball in American lottery jurisdictions, with the two groups referred to as the "Mega Power Lottery" by many users. The expansion occurred on January 31, 2010, as 23 Powerball members began selling Mega Millions tickets for their first drawing on February 2, 2010; likewise, 10 Mega Millions members began selling Powerball tickets for their first drawing the next day. Montana (joining Mega Millions on March 1, 2010) was the first jurisdiction to add either game after the cross-sell expansion. Nebraska (March 20, 2010), Oregon (March 28, 2010), Arizona (April 18, 2010), Maine (May 9, 2010), Colorado and South Dakota (the latter two on May 16, 2010) also have joined Mega Millions since the expansion.