TIME Lottery

North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Texas Tickets Win Powerball

A lottery representative hands out free Powerball tickets in Lincoln, Neb., Feb. 11, 2015
Nati Harnik—AP A lottery representative hands out free Powerball tickets in Lincoln, Neb., Feb. 11, 2015

The Powerball jackpot of $564.1 million will be split among the winning tickets

(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Tickets in North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas have matched all six numbers to split a $564.1 million Powerball jackpot, lottery officials said Thursday.

Sue Dooley, senior drawing manager and production coordinator for the Multi-State Lottery Association, said the Puerto Rico ticket was the first Powerball jackpot winner ever sold outside the continental United States.

Puerto Rico joined Powerball less than a year ago. Besides 44 states and Washington, D.C., the game is also played in the Virgin Islands, but there has never been a jackpot winner there, Dooley said.

The Texas Lottery posted on Twitter early Thursday that one of the winning tickets was sold at Appletree Food Mart in Princeton, Texas. There was no immediate information on the cities or stores that produced the winners in North Carolina or Puerto Rico.

It had been nearly a year since a Powerball prize reached the giant number people have come to expect recently. That was last February, when someone won $425.3 million.

Wednesday’s jackpot was the third-largest in Powerball history and the fifth-largest U.S. lottery prize. The last time a Powerball jackpot climbed so high was May 2013 when a Florida ticket won a $590.5 million prize.

Should the winners select the lump sum option, each would get a one-third share of $381,138,450.16 before taxes. The other option is an annuity, under which the lottery would make payments 30 times over 29 years.

The largest payout in U.S. history was to three ticketholders in the Mega Millions game, the other national lottery drawing. That was a $656 million prize won in March 2012 by players in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland.

In 2012, state officials who run Powerball and Mega Millions changed ticket prices and lowered the odds of winning jackpots in hopes the moves would increase the number of huge prizes and draw more players. The new rules worked, causing jackpots to repeatedly climb to record levels. More than half of the top 10 U.S. jackpots have been reached in the past couple of years.

The winning numbers in Wednesday’s drawing were: 11, 13, 25, 39, 54 and the Powerball 19.

The jackpot now goes back to $40 million for the next drawing on Saturday.

TIME Lottery

The Powerball Jackpot Is Set to Reach $450 Million

A store clerk hands a customer his Powerball ticket at a local grocery store in Hialeah, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015
Alan Diaz—AP A store clerk hands a customer his Powerball ticket at a local grocery store in Hialeah, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015

But you're far more likely to play in the NBA than win this haul

The odds of winning the Powerball Grand Prize are 1 in 175,223,510. For this week, however, you can keep believing.

No one claimed Powerball’s estimated $394 million jackpot over the weekend, meaning the prize for the next draw will be around $450 million (or $304.1 million for a cash payout) according to the Powerball website.

That’s $140 million short of the record $590.5 million — won on May 18, 2013 by 84-year-old Gloria Mackenzie of Zephyrhills, Fla. — but who’s complaining?

The next draw will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 11.

TIME Lottery

Powerball Jackpot Hits $380 Million

A store clerk pulls a Powerball ticket after being printed for a customer at a local grocery store in Hialeah, Fla. on Feb. 4, 2015.
Alan Diaz—AP A store clerk pulls a Powerball ticket after being printed for a customer at a local grocery store in Hialeah, Fla. on Feb. 4, 2015.

The odds of winning are 1 in 175 million

The Powerball jackpot will be up to $380 million on Saturday, one of the largest in the lottery’s history.

Powerball jackpots begin at $40 million and increase with each drawing that fails to produce a winner. The biggest Powerball jackpot ever awarded was $590.5 million in 2013, Reuters reports.

Powerball is played in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But before you run out to buy a ticket with hopes of the $380 million in your future, remember that the odds of winning are 1 in 175 million.

TIME Bizarre

How 7 Seconds Cost a Man $21 Million

Getty Images

Joel Ifergan's winning lottery ticket printed out seconds too late

A Québécois man missed out on winning a lottery jackpot worth $21.4 million (27 million Canadian dollars) because his winning ticket printed out seven seconds too late.

A Canadian court dismissed Joel Ifergan’s appeal Thursday after the almost-but-not-quite-winner said that he should still be eligible to win half the prize money.

Ifergan bought two Super 7 lottery tickets at 8:59 p.m. for the May 23, 2008 jackpot. But while one ticket was eligible for the 23rd, the second was printed out after the clock struck nine, and only counted for the May 30 jackpot. And as fate would have it, the ticket marked for the 30th had the winning numbers for the 23rd.

Ifergan blames Loto-Quebec’s ten second processing delay.

After spending years and at least $80,000 on the case, Ifergan tells CTV, “Yes, it cost me a lot of money, but it also consumed me for seven years.”

[CTV]

TIME Bizarre

New Hampshire Lottery Releases Bacon-Scented Scratch Ticket

It'll certainly gives new meaning to the phrase "bringing home the bacon"

The New Hampshire state lottery is now offering a lottery ticket that smells like bacon.

The new tickets, which are scratch-n-sniff and read “I Heart Bacon,” were released Jan. 5. Winners can take home $1,000 and the odds of making at least a dollar are one in 4.12, the website says. Plus, you know, it just smells delicious.

To promote the new ticket, bacon trucks will visit various locations in the state, handing out free samples of applewood smoked bacon as well as offering lottery tickets.

Last week, around 700,000 tickets were sold, MarketWatch reports, making the bacon lottery the best selling $1 ticket.

TIME New Mexico

$500,000 Winning Lottery Ticket Deemed a ‘Misprint’

It's a classic rags-to-riches story. Only without the riches

A New Mexico resident believes he is owed $500,000 for what appears to be a winning lottery ticket. However, the New Mexico Lottery says the ticket was a misprint so it doesn’t have to be honored.

John Wines purchased the scratch-off ticket in Roswell, New Mexico in December. The ticket showed two winning numbers for $250,000 each, even though the maximum prize for a single scratch-off card is supposed to be $250,000. Some of the winning numbers are also obscured on the ticket. When Wines returned to the gas station where he bought the ticket, to claim his prize, he was told that the card was a misprint. New Mexico Lottery also refused to validate the ticket when he contacted them by email.

Wines believes dismissing the ticket as a misprint is unfair. “It’s like I told them, I didn’t misprint it,” he told KFOR. “I bought the ticket in good faith thinking if I won I was going to get my money.”

As a consolation prize, New Mexico Lottery offered Wines $100—in free lottery tickets.

[KFOR]

TIME Bizarre

A Baltimore Truck Driver Has Won the Maryland Lottery for a Second Time

Some people really do have all the luck

“It’s great to be back” is something not many people get to say to lottery officials while collecting their winnings.

But those were the exact words uttered by a Baltimore truck driver last week after he won the Maryland Lottery for the second time, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The unidentified 39-year-old driver only realized he had won the $2.85 million jackpot when he heard the winning ticket came from a Safeway in Waldorf, Md., where he had bought one after stopping to fill gas.

The man had previously netted $250,000 in a second-tier Mega Millions prize in 2005, which he said he used for a down payment on a house. He reportedly plans to use his second jackpot to pay off the house and save for his two sons. And, of course, take a vacation.

[Baltimore Sun]

MONEY gambling

Spain’s Lottery Awards $3 Billion in Time for Christmas

Winning El Gordo, the grand prize in Spain's 200-year-old annual nationwide lottery, can turn small towns wealthy overnight.

MONEY Leisure

Why a Hyped New Lottery Game Went Bust in a Hurry

The "Monopoly Millionaire's Club" lottery launch at Times Square on October 20, 2014 in New York City.
Andrew H. Walker—Getty Images The "Monopoly Millionaire's Club" lottery launch at Times Square on October 20, 2014 in New York City.

A new Monopoly-themed lottery game was expected to be popular enough to warrant its own TV show. But the game has already been killed after flopping with lottery players, who often had no clue if they won or lost.

State lottery sales have largely gone flat at the same time that much of the country has come to rely more and more on the revenues sanctioned gambling provides. To boost sales, state lottery commissions are constantly trying to capture the imagination (and dollars) of players by rolling out exciting new games. As one economist explained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this past summer, a lottery game “follows a life cycle like any product… You get this increase in sales. It peaks. People get used to it, and then you get this slowdown.”

Hence the need to regularly create and market new lottery games, like the Monopoly Millionaires Club, introduced in 23 states in October as the first multi-state lottery game to hit the scene in 12 years. At the time, state lottery commission press releases (like one published for Arizona) and news outlets in participating states (such as New Jersey) had trouble explaining all of the game’s particulars. It was a “two-pronged game,” but with potentially multiple winners and “three different ways to win a million dollars,” and each ticket came with a series of numbers as well as a traditional Monopoly property, like Marvin Gardens or B&O Railroad. Anyone with a ticket matching all six numbers would win the jackpot (starting at $15 million), and when a jackpot was awarded, other randomly selected players would win $1 million apiece. But if nobody won the jackpot, nobody else was eligible to win $1 million either.

Oh, and players were supposed to enter an online sweepstakes to win a trip to Las Vegas to be on the associated TV show, to be hosted by Billy Gardell (Mike on “Mike & Molly”), where more millions could be awarded. And each ticket cost a pricey $5. “This $5 price point strengthens the game’s play value while differentiating it within lottery draw game portfolios,” the Arizona press release explained. Whatever that means.

From the get-go, people were puzzled. “Monopoly Millionaires’ Club is like a cross between Powerball, the Pennsylvania Lottery’s Millionaire Raffle, and McDonald’s Monopoly game, which makes people collect various game pieces,” one Philadelphia Inquirer writer summed up. “Plus, there’s a TV show,” and unlike popular scratch-off lottery tickets, “there’s nothing ‘instant’ about” about the Monopoly game. While it could possibly pay off big-time for players, the game was so confusing it might “set records for people who fail to realize they won, as well as people who mistakenly think they did.”

Turns out people don’t like confusing lottery games involving delayed gratification, and they certainly don’t like forking over $5 a pop to play such games. Citing “sales that have not met the lottery industry’s projections,” Texas announced last week that it was suspending the Monopoly game, and all other states followed suit recently. By December 26, the game will disappear nationally. To borrow from Monopoly lingo, this game is going indefinitely to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200—or any amount.

MONEY Lottery

Here’s One Solution to America’s Destructive Lottery Addiction

Man in pile of cash excited holding up fistfuls of money
John Lund—Getty Images

This week John Oliver helped expose the dark side of U.S. state lotteries, which are a drain for low-income ticket buyers. Turns out, there's a better alternative.

Lotteries—and the damage they inflict on the finances of poor Americans—were the main topic of HBO’s satirical news show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver this past Sunday.

Host and comedian Oliver had several bones to pick with state lottery administrators, who already generate a staggering $68 billion in revenue each year and are expanding into even more addictive products like video lottery terminals.

Among the disturbing developments he noted is the fact that states like Illinois have begun rolling out smartphone lottery apps.

“If, starting right now, your mother could play the lottery as easily as she plays Candy Crush, in three weeks, she’d be preparing Thanksgiving dinner over a trashcan fire,” Oliver quips in the clip below.

Jokes aside, Oliver has hit upon some sad truths about lotteries.

For one, playing the lottery is a form of gambling that can be just as neurologically addictive as substance abuse.

Lotteries also tend to function as a regressive tax on the poor. Studies show that it’s the poorest Americans who spend the biggest portion of income on lotteries, with 61% of people in the lowest fifth of socioeconomic status (as measured by income and education) playing the lottery each year, compared to 42% in the top fifth. And while the richest Americans gamble on the lottery only 10 times each year, the poorest buy tickets 26 days annually.

“The hope of getting out of poverty encourages people to continue to buy tickets, even though their chances of stumbling upon a life-changing windfall are nearly impossibly slim,” writes Carnegie Mellon’s Emily Haisley, the lead author of a study on the psychology of lottery gambling. “Buying lottery tickets, in fact, exacerbates the very poverty that purchasers are hoping to escape.”

Given that lotteries are a big revenue source for state governments and aren’t going away anytime soon, however, some advocates for the poor are seeking ways to dissuade financially-vulnerable Americans from playing.

One promising answer that’s gained visibility in recent years is to combine the appeal of gambling with something that promotes responsible financial behavior—in this case, a savings account.

These “prize-linked savings accounts” work just like normal savings accounts, except that instead of getting interest for parking their cash, customers are entered into a drawing—a lottery, if you will—to win money or other prizes.

Though they are currently available through credit unions in certain states like Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington, these accounts are prohibited by many other states’ governments—despite lots and lots of evidence that the accounts are effective at steering would-be gamblers toward building nest eggs they otherwise wouldn’t have.

In one study, for example, researchers found that people saved 38% more than the average when given the option of a prize-linked account. Plus, the money they put away tended to come out of their lottery ticket spending, not their normal savings account contributions (if they had any).

Of course, in an ideal world, everyone would stop chasing prizes and instead contribute to conventional savings, retirement, and investment accounts that actually earn interest or generate returns and don’t impose the stiff early withdrawal penalties that many prize-linked accounts do.

But here in the real world, where advertisements, news, and irrational hope combine to make us feel like our dream life is just a ticket away, it’s unrealistic to expect all Americans to stop playing the lottery.

A more realistic goal might simply be to apply its powerful appeal to smarter alternatives.

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