On May 18, 2013, the world's largest one-ticket jackpot, an annuity of approximately $590.5 million ($620 million today), was won by a Powerball ticket sold in Zephyrhills, Florida. On June 5, Florida Lottery officials announced the winner: Gloria C. MacKenzie, 84, who purchased the "quick pick" ticket at a Publix supermarket. MacKenzie chose the cash option of approximately $370.8 million, before Federal withholding; Florida does not have a state income tax.
Ohio and New York joined The Big Game consortium on May 15, 2002, when the game was renamed The Big Game Mega Millions, temporarily retaining the old name and the original "gold ball" logo. The "Big Money Ball" became the "Mega Ball." While the game's name was altered, the yellow ball in the new Mega Millions logo continued to read "The Big Game" until February 2003, after which it was replaced with six stars representing the original members of the consortium. The first (The Big Game) Mega Millions drawing was held two days later, on May 17. The Mega Millions trademark is owned by the Illinois Lottery. The first three lotteries to join Mega Millions were Washington (in September 2002), Texas (in 2003) and California (in 2005); California was the last addition to Mega Millions before the cross-sell expansion of 2010. Montana joined Mega Millions on March 1, 2010, the first addition to Mega Millions after the cross-sell expansion.
The advertised estimated jackpot represents the total payments that would be paid to jackpot winner(s) should they accept the annuity option. This estimate is based on the funds accumulated in the jackpot pool rolled over from prior drawings, expected sales for the next drawing, and market interest rates for the securities that would be used to fund the annuity. The estimated jackpot usually is 32.5% of the (non-Power Play) revenue of each base ($1) play, submitted by game members to accumulate into a prize pool to fund the jackpot. If the jackpot is not won in a particular drawing, the prize pool carries over to the next drawing, accumulating until there is a jackpot winner. This prize pool is the cash that is paid to a jackpot winner if they choose cash. If the winner chooses the annuity, current market rates are used to calculate the graduated payment schedule and the initial installment is paid. The remaining funds in the prize pool are invested to generate the income required to fund the remaining installments. If there are multiple jackpot winners for a drawing, the jackpot prize pool is divided equally for all such plays.
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.
When a player wins the Lotto America jackpot, the winner may choose to receive the prize in annuity payments or may elect to take a lump-sum payment. A player has 60 days from the date they claim their prize to choose the "cash" option or the "annuity" option. If the player selects the "cash" option, the prize will be a single cash payment equal to the amount available to the lottery for the jackpot prize pool. The "cash" prize is estimated to be approximately one-half of the estimated jackpot, depending on current interest rates. If the player chooses an annuity, it will be paid in 30 payments over 29 years, and the annual payment will be increased by a rate as determined by lottery officials. If the cost to purchase the annuity is less than $250,000, the lottery may elect to pay the prize as "cash."
For many potential players, the viral story of the Iraqi lottery winner opened their eyes and showed a proof of concept that not only can you play the Powerball online, but more importantly, if you play and win, you will get paid. Without the concrete example of the Iraqi lotto winner, it would be hard to prove to anyone without a doubt that you will be eligible for the payment if you win. The US Powerball is even more clear cut as it specifically has no limitations or restrictions to who can buy Powerball tickets online. You can be sure that if you get Powerball tickets online and it is to play and not bet on the lottery that there will be a local agent buying your ticket for you.
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The only way to be sure that what you are buying is “official” is to purchase your tickets from a company that has agents that will purchase in the real world the Powerball tickets online that you have selected. If you are a more trustworthy person and don’t need a scanned copy of your Powerball tickets online then by all means go for an online lottery ticket provider that follows the insurance model.
*a tip to know whether the website you are looking at actually buys lottery tickets online or follows the insurance model is to check the wording that they use. If you see the words “Play” then you can be confident it is a company that has agents and buys your tickets physically, if you see the words “Bet” you can be sure it is following the insurance model and you are placing a bet on the outcome of a lottery.