In the United States, lotteries are run by 47 jurisdictions: 44 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Lotteries are subject to the laws of and operated independently by each jurisdiction, and there is no national lottery organization. However, consortiums of state lotteries jointly organize games spanning larger geographical footprints, which in turn, carry larger jackpots. Two major lottery games, Mega Millions and Powerball, are both offered in nearly all jurisdictions that operate lotteries, and serve as de facto national lotteries.
Since the secondary prizes are defined in fixed amounts (except in California), if the liability for a given prize level exceed the funds in the prize pool for that level the amount of the prize may be reduced and the prize pool be distributed on a parimutuel basis and result in a prize lower than the fixed amounts given in the prize tables. Because the secondary prize pools are calculated independently, it is possible lower-tier prizes will differ among the game members.
In 2005, Mega Millions was the target of a mailing scam. A letter bearing the Mega Millions logo was used in a string of lottery scams designed to trick people into providing personal financial information by cashing bogus checks. The letter, which had been sent to people in several states via standard mail, included a check for what the scammers said was an unclaimed Mega Millions prize. If the check was cashed, it bounced, but not before the bank stamped it with a routing number and personal account information and sent it back to the fraudulent organization, providing them with the recipients' financial information.
Before the January 31, 2010 cross-sell expansion, Mega Millions was the only multi-jurisdictional lottery whose drawings were carried nationally, instead of airing only on stations in participating jurisdictions. Chicago-based cable superstation WGN-TV simulcast Mega Millions drawings on its national WGN America feed immediately following WGN's 9pm (Central Time) newscast. Following the cross-sell expansion, WGN also began airing Powerball drawings nationally. WGN served as a default carrier of both major games where no local television station carried either multi-jurisdictional lottery's drawings. Both drawings were removed from WGN America in late 2014 when it ceased carrying WGN's newscasts.
On January 13th, 2016 the American multi-state lottery Powerball set the world-record for the biggest jackpot of all time at USD$1.6 billion when it was won by John and Lisa Robinson of Tennessee, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt of Florida and Marvin and Mae Acosta of California. It was the first time in history a prize had topped the billion dollar mark!
Generally, Powerball players do not have to choose cash or annuity unless they win a jackpot (then they usually have 60 days to choose.) Exceptions include Florida and Missouri; the 60-day "clock" starts with the drawing, so a jackpot winner who wishes to take the cash option needs to make immediate plans to claim their prize. New Jersey and Texas require the cash/annuity choice to be made when playing; in New Jersey, an annuity ticket can be changed to cash after winning, while in Texas, the choice is binding (when the cash option was introduced in 1997, all Powerball players had to make the choice when playing. This regulation was phased out by 1999.) All Powerball prizes must be claimed within a period ranging from 90 days to a year, depending on where the ticket was bought.
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In spite of the huge popularity of this lottery draw game it is still an unknown to many that you can buy Powerball tickets online, whether you are in the US or not. To be clear, this doesn’t even mean that you have to be a citizen of the US either. No citizenship & not based in the US? You can still play powerball online and buy lottery tickets online for a number of different lottery draw games.