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Powerball Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Below are the answers to several frequently asked questions for Powerball.  For questions that relate to a particular state, you may wish to contact your local lottery officials.  If you have a question that is not answered here, you can try our Search page, or you can contact us.

Who can play Powerball?

You must be 18 years or older to purchase lottery tickets.

How is Powerball played?

See How to Play Powerball.

Where can I purchase Powerball tickets?

See Where to Play Powerball.

When are Powerball drawings held?

The Powerball winning lottery numbers are drawn each Wednesday and Saturday at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Time (9:59 Central; 8:59 p.m. Mountain; 7:59 p.m. Pacific)

Where are Powerball drawings held?

Starting January 7, 2009, Powerball drawings are conducted at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.  Previously, the drawings were held at ITC Studios in West Des Moines, Iowa since the inception of the game.

When can tickets be purchased?

Powerball tickets can be purchased from authorized lottery retailers up until approximately 10:45 p.m. Eastern Time the day of the drawing.  The exact purchase cutoff time varies by state, so please check with a lottery retailer in your state for the precise time.

Can Powerball be played by mail?

No, federal law prohibits the mailing of lottery tickets.

Do I need to live in one of the Powerball states in order to win?

There is NO residency requirement to play and win Powerball.  To illustrate this point, in the past, residents of non-Powerball states — even residents of other countries — have won prizes in every prize category, including the jackpot.

Can non-US citizens play?  What if a non-US citizen wins?

Yes, non-US citizens can legally play, and non-US citizens are eligible to win any prize offered in the game.

If a non-US citizen wins, they would claim their prize in the same manner that a US citizen would, but the taxes withheld would be different. For example, federal withholding for non-US citizens is a flat 30%.  Also, individual states may have different tax structures for non-US citizens than they do for US citizens.  Depending on which country the person is a legal resident of, there also may be tax treaties between the US and that other country which could be helpful in offsetting whatever the US tax liabilities are.

In short, non-US citizens can play and win Powerball.  If a non-US citizen wins a large prize, they will be responsible for some amount of tax, which in the end will probably be an amount similar to what a US citizen would pay, but there are so many possible variations with international tax codes that you'll need to consult with a local tax attorney if you need to know a precise amount of tax liability.

How can I find out the Powerball jackpot?

Just go to USA Mega and you'll find the current jackpot right at the top of the page.  Also, most lottery retailers will have the current jackpot posted next to their lottery machine.

What is a Quick Pick?

A Quick Pick is a means to have the lottery machine automatically generate random numbers for you.  Just tell your lottery retailer that you want a Quick Pick, and your ticket will be ready in seconds.

How do I claim a prize?

Check out the Ways to Win page, which includes information about how to claim a prize if you win.

Can I receive my winnings by mail?

Most states allow you to claim prizes by mail.  Contact your state lottery for details.

Why is the cash option different than the advertised jackpot?

The Powerball jackpot is an estimated 29-year annuity value.  When players choose the annuity option for their prize, the state lottery pays the prize out over 29 years (30 payments) by buying U.S. Government Treasury Securities, which earn interest and mature annually over the 29 years.  That annual return is the amount the winners receive each year for the 29 year period.  With the cash option, the state lottery will take the amount of money that would have been invested and will pay it directly to the winner in one payment.  Both payment options have federal and applicable state taxes deducted from them, although with an annuity option you pay taxes gradually on each annual payout, not all at once like with the cash option.

Why is the Powerball cash value less than Mega Millions?

You may have noticed that when Powerball and Mega Millions have the same annuity jackpot amount, the cash value for Mega Millions is higher.  But from an accounting perspective, you are looking at it backwards.  Most people think of the cash value as something that is calculated based on the annuity amount, but in fact the lotteries start with the cash value.  The advertised annuity jackpot amount is calculated based on the cash available for the jackpot, plus whatever interest will be generated over the annuity years.  So in reality, the question you should be asking is, "When the Powerball and Mega Millions cash values are the same, why is the Powerball annuity jackpot higher?"  And the answer to that question is that Powerball uses an annuity formula that lasts an additional 4 years, plus the annuity increases its payout every year.  So Powerball's annuity formula will generate more income over its lifespan than Mega Million's will.

After I buy a ticket, can it be changed from annuity to cash option?

Federal guidelines suggest that if you are a jackpot prize winner but did not choose the cash option at the time of purchase, you will have one last chance to choose the cash option.  However, not all states adopt this guideline in the same manner, or at all.  Please check with your state lottery to find out their policy regarding changing the payout option after winning the jackpot.

What is the Power Play?

Power Play is a special feature that allows a winner to multiply the original prize amount.  Powerball players can multiply their Powerball prizes by 2, 3, 4 or 5 times (does not include the jackpot).

The Power Play multiplier number is chosen at random by computerized drawing immediately before the regular drawing of winning numbers takes place.

A player must choose the Power Play option when they buy their Powerball ticket, and then the ticket must match one of the 9 Ways to Win (except the jackpot) before the multiplier takes effect.  Power Play costs an extra $1 per play.

As a bonus, if Power Play is in effect for a ticket that wins the second prize of $200,000, the prize will be multiplied 5 times, regardless of the Power Play number selected for that drawing, for a total cash prize of $1 million.

What if more than one person wins?

If more than one person wins the jackpot, the prize is equally divided among the winners.  All other prizes, from $200,000 down to $3, are fixed prize amounts, and are paid in full to each winner.

Are lottery prizes taxable?

Lottery winnings of $600.01 and over are subject to Federal Withholding tax.  For winnings of $600.01, up to and including $5,000, you will be issued a W-2G form to report your winnings on your federal income tax form.  For winnings of $5,000.01 and over, your state's Department of Revenue removes the 25 percent federal withholding before you receive your winnings check (or, if it is an annuity, from each winnings check).  You then receive a W-2G form with each check to submit with your 1040 form to show that the 25 percent federal withholding already has been paid.  In addition to federal tax, your state will make additional withholdings for taxes, and most states will deduct other money that you may owe to the state, such as back taxes, child support, loan payments, etc.  The state tax withholdings are as follows:

Arizona  5% state withholding (Arizona residents), 6% state withholding (non-Arizona residents)
Arkansas  7% state withholding
California  No state tax on lottery prizes
Colorado  4% state withholding
Connecticut  6.7% state withholding
Delaware  No state tax on lottery prizes
Florida  No state tax on lottery prizes
Georgia  6% state withholding
Idaho  7.8% state withholding
Illinois  5% state withholding
Indiana  3.4% state withholding
Iowa  5% state withholding
Kansas  5% state withholding
Kentucky  6% state withholding
Louisiana  5% state withholding
Maine  5% state withholding
Maryland  8.75% state withholding (Maryland residents), 7% state withholding (non-Maryland residents)
Massachusetts  5% state withholding
Michigan  4.35% state withholding
Minnesota  7.25% state withholding
Missouri  4% state withholding
Montana  6.9% state withholding
Nebraska  5% state withholding
New Hampshire  No state tax on lottery prizes
New Jersey  3% state withholding
New Mexico  6% state withholding
New York  8.82% state withholding, plus: 3.648% (NYC residents), 0.897% (Yonkers residents)
North Carolina  5.8% state withholding
North Dakota  3.99% state withholding
Ohio  4% state withholding
Oklahoma  4% state withholding
Oregon  8% state withholding
Pennsylvania  No state tax on lottery prizes
Rhode Island  7% state withholding
South Carolina  7% state withholding
South Dakota  No state tax on lottery prizes
Tennessee  No state tax on lottery prizes
Texas  No state tax on lottery prizes
U.S. Virgin Islands  Unknown State Tax Rate
Vermont  6% state withholding
Virginia  4% state withholding
Washington  No state tax on lottery prizes
Washington, D.C.  8.5% state withholding
West Virginia  6.5% state withholding
Wisconsin  7.75% state withholding

† This state/jurisdiction has not responded to our requests for this information.

If I live in a state that taxes prizes, but bought my ticket in a state with no tax on prizes, do I still need to pay state tax?

Yes, you do.  Think of lottery prizes as regular earned income from a job.  Just because you may work in a different state, that doesn't permit you to get away with not paying state income tax in your state of residence.  The lottery works the same way.

Whether it's income from a job or income from gambling, the state where the money is won will tax the prize first at their out-of-state tax rate (assuming the state taxes lottery winnings).  If your state of residence has the same or lower tax rate, then you won't owe anything else.  But if your state has a higher rate, you will get a credit for what you paid in the other state, and pay the difference to your state.

If the other state has no tax, you just pay the entire tax bill to your state.

The net result is that you end up paying whichever tax rate is higher between your state of residence and the state where you purchased the ticket.  Of course, the tax law is quite complex and it's possible that some condition or arrangement exists between the two states and a good tax attorney and/or accountant could discover a tax-saving loophole.  That's why we always recommend that major prize winners do not make any major decisions before first hiring a good legal and financial team.

One other option to consider, depending on how much in taxes you're looking to save: the residency requirements as they relate to prize claims, state taxes, and income reporting.  Since you aren't responsible for paying taxes until you claim the prize, perhaps there is time to establish residency in the state where you purchased the ticket before the prize claim period expires.  However, that is something you would definitely need to explore with an attorney before taking any action to assess the feasibility.  You would also need to decide if it would be worth the risk of that important little piece of paper not getting lost, damaged, or destroyed in the time you spend arranging everything.

What are the odds of winning?

There are nine ways to win prizes:

MatchPrizeOdds
5 + 1Jackpot     1 in 195,249,054
5 + 0$200,0001 in 5,138,133
4 + 1$10,0001 in 723,144.64
4 + 0$1001 in 19,030.12
3 + 1$1001 in 13,644.24
3 + 0$71 in 359.06
2 + 1$71 in 787.17
1 + 1$41 in 123.48
0 + 1$31 in 61.74
Overall odds of winning1 in 35.11

How can I reduce the taxes on a major lottery prize?

While we cannot advise players on taxes or the use of their individual prizes, we suggest you contact an attorney, tax preparer, the Internal Revenue Service (1-800-424-1040), or your state Department of Revenue.  As always, a good financial plan will always make your money go further.

If I should win the jackpot, do I have the option of remaining anonymous as far as the public and the media are concerned?

In most states, lottery winner information is public domain, therefore it is public information.  Publicized information normally includes the jackpot winner's name, city, county, game in which they won, date won, and the amount of the prize.

How long do I have to claim a prize?

Your claim period varies by state, from 90 days to 1 year.  Check the Ways to Win page for a list of states and their corresponding claim periods.  After the claim period expires, your prize is reclaimed by the state.

What happens to unclaimed prizes?

The disposition of unclaimed prizes varies by state.  Typically, the money is used for education programs, treatment programs, and to increase future prize pools.

What happens if I win an annuity and die before all the installments have been paid?

Your designated beneficiaries will receive the remaining payments.

What happens if I lose a winning ticket?

Your state's lottery is not responsible for lost or stolen tickets.  You should sign the back of your ticket in ink and take appropriate measures to safeguard it.  Lottery tickets are bearer documents.  Unless signed, anyone in possession of the ticket can file a claim.

Can lottery tickets be purchased over the internet?

No, lottery tickets cannot be sold over the internet.  But as an alternative, we recommend that non-USA residents use our recommended lottery ticket service, which purchases Powerball lottery tickets from a licensed state lottery retailer on your behalf.

Is it legal to play the lottery over the Internet?

The state lotteries and MUSL (the organization that runs Powerball) are all very firm in their assertion that playing the lottery in any manner over the Internet is illegal.  We are not lawyers and can't provide legal advice, but we are not so sure about their position.  Their absolute certainty that it is illegal may have more to do with not wanting to lose control of the player interaction, and less to do with a firm legal footing.

When we assess the legality, we look at what has actually happened in court cases.  There have been people in the past who purchased a lottery ticket from an Internet Web site, subsequently won the jackpot, and the lottery attempted to block them from receiving the jackpot.  In each case, the winners took the lottery to court and won.  They received their jackpot as if they walked into a store and purchased a ticket.

You must keep in mind that any type of Internet-based lottery service is not risk-free.  From a legal standpoint, the services are dealing in loopholes in the current law, and the US Congress has taken steps to make those loopholes tighter, particularly in trying to prevent banks and credit cards from allowing Internet payments for lottery services.  But there is a much bigger threat when you use an Internet lottery service: getting ripped off.

By not making a purchase in a store, you may be doing something worse than throwing your money away: you may be helping to keep a scam operation running.  Stay away from anything referring to a "syndicate".  We are not aware of any site using that terminology that is not a scam.  Also beware of sites that state "Insured by ___" at the bottom.  It is like saying "We don't really buy lottery tickets, but trust us, you'll get paid if you win."  Have you ever heard of an insurance company paying out a $200 million Powerball jackpot?  We haven't.

We do allow some advertising on USA Mega for lottery services.  We recommend that USA residents stay away from such services, and make your purchases in a store.  The ads are directed at non-USA residents, who may not have the online lottery restrictions that exist in the USA.

Where can I find information about how to play Powerball?

Information on draw days and times as well as game details on how to play can be found at our How to Play page.

Where can I find past winning numbers?

Check the Previous Results section of our site.

How can I make sure I don't miss out on a large jackpot?

You can sign up for our Jackpot Alert feature.  Using this feature, you set the minimum level of jackpot you wish to be notified about — anywhere from every jackpot up to $300 million.  When the jackpot becomes the size you specified or larger, you automatically receive a short e-mail message.  You'll never miss out on a big jackpot again!

What determines the size of the jackpot?

The jackpot starts at a minimum of $20 million.  For every consecutive drawing in which there is no winner, the jackpot is increased in relation to ticket sales.  When the jackpot becomes excessively large, it may increase substantially due to increased ticket sales.  After a drawing in which one or more tickets wins the top prize, the jackpot is reset to the minimum $20 million level.  The jackpot is divided evenly among all tickets winning the top prize in one drawing.

I heard there is a limit on the jackpot size. Is that true?

While there is technically no limit on the size to which the Powerball jackpot can grow, there is a "slow-down mechanism" that kicks in when the jackpot reaches record heights.  We don't know why the Multi-State Lottery Association decided to implement it, but we'll explain how it works.

Whenever the Powerball jackpot reaches a record level, the amount of the jackpot prize is limited to increases for each draw of no more than $25 million.  Once this "slow-down" is in effect, any prize money collected in excess of the maximum $25 million increase is placed into something called the Match 5 Bonus prize pool, and will accumulate until there is a jackpot winner.  When there is a jackpot winner, the Match 5 Bonus prize pool will be divided equally among all players who match the first 5 numbers, but not the Powerball (5+0).  The prize is paid in cash.

The Match 5 Bonus prize is in addition to any Power Play prizes that may be won.  The Match 5 Bonus prize is not multiplied.  A Match 5 winner who also played the Power Play option will win the original $200,000, plus the amount paid under the Power Play multiplier option, plus the new Match 5 Bonus effective bonus prize.

If nobody hits the jackpot while the "slow-down" is in effect, 5+0 winners get the normal 5+0 prize, plus Power Play winnings if they purchased that option.  All of the Match 5 Bonus money rolls into the next drawing.

Although it is unlikely, it is possible that no Match 5 winner will exist for a drawing where the jackpot is won and in where a Match 5 Bonus Prize pools exists. In this case, the Match 5 Bonus prize pool will be paid out to the Match 4+1 winners.

Where do lottery profits go?

Each participating Powerball state has its own laws regarding the disposition of lottery profits.  Typically, lottery profits will go to education and schools, treatment programs, administrative/operating expenses, and other local causes.

When is your web site updated?

Current winning numbers are updated live, as the drawing happens, and are shown prominently on our Home Page.  No other site has the current results sooner.  Statistics and Previous Results are updated instantly when the drawing results are entered.  The number of winners in each prize category, including the jackpot, is updated early in the morning after the drawing, when the information is official.  The upcoming jackpot is updated immediately after the number of winners is tallied, and is shown on our Home PageNews is updated as it becomes available, often several times per day.

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