Lottery jackpot records are a matter of some interest to both participants and observers of this form of gambling.It is often said that the annual Christmas lottery in Spain, dubbed El Gordo (The Fat One), is the largest in the world. In 2003 its prize fund reached (converting euros to approximate dollars) $2,200,000,000 with a first prize of $470,000,000 and second prize of $235,000,000. However, every number entered in this lottery is on 170 tickets which are often sold in fractions (usually tenths). Thus, the El Gordo prize is usually split, and is not comparable to the winner-take-all style drawings popular elsewhere.
The largest draw prize in a lottery was US $365 million Powerball on February 18, 2006 won by a group of eight meat processing workers in Nebraska. The 2nd largest draw prize in a lottery was the US $363 million Big Game jackpot of May 9, 2000, split between two winners. This game was relaunched as Mega Millions, with odds lengthened to 135 million to one, in May 2002, and the odds further lengthened to 175 million to one in June 2005, but the jackpot record has not been broken. The largest single Big Game or Mega Millions winner has been Geraldine Williams of Lowell, Massachusetts, USA, with the $294 million annuity-value jackpot of the July 2, 2004 drawing. The Mega Millions jackpot of November 15, 2005, divided by seven employees of a medical center who shared one winning ticket, had an annuity value of $315 million, but the lump sum value was a record $187.1 million.
The largest single winner of any lottery prize was Andrew J. Whittaker Jr. of West Virginia, who won $314.9 million in the Powerball drawing of December 25, 2002. Opting as most large prize winners in the U.S. do for the lump sum, his after-tax prize has been variously reported as $111,681,349 and $113,386,407.77. Because of different tax rates, the $168 million lump sum opted for by Mega Millions winner Geraldine Williams (see previous paragraph) was reported as $117.6 million after taxes. Harold and Helen Lerner of New Jersey also claimed a higher after-tax lump sum than Whittaker in the Mega Millions of September 16, 2005 as New Jersey has no state tax on lottery prizes. The October 19, 2005 Powerball drawing won by nine members of the West and Chaney families of Medford, Oregon was for a larger annuity ($340 million) but a smaller lump sum than Whittaker’s.
State lotteries in the United States
The record annuity-value prizes in the largest state lottery games in the United States have been:
California: $193 million to three tickets February 16, 2002; to single winner, $141 million to Alcario Castellano on June 23, 2001
New York: $130 million in special Millennium Millions game November 4, 2000, shared by two winners; to single winner, $100 million to Johnnie Ely in Millennium Millions of December 31st 1999; in regular New York Lotto, $72 million to four tickets May 31, 1997; single-ticket record for New York Lotto is $58 million
Pennsylvania: $115.6 million shared among fourteen winning tickets in April 1989, in Super 7 game later discontinued after a scandal; in subsequent Super 6 game $86,192,222.20 in December 1999, claimed by Shemonski family in March 2000
Florida: $106.5 million to six tickets in September 1990
Texas: estimated $145 million June 19, 2004
Ohio: $75 million April 13, 2002.
The ratio between lump sum and annuity value varies over time with interest rates and possible alterations in the length of the period for which payments are made.
Unlike in the United States, where lottery wins are taxed, and the full winnings are paid by an annuity over a period of many years or a reduced lump-sum amount is offered, European lotteries are generally tax-free and the winning jackpot is paid out immediately in one lump sum.
EuroMillions is a pan-European lottery, with odds of 1 in 76,275,360. In July 2005, Irish woman, Dolores McNamara won a tax-free €115,436,126 ($139m) jackpot. On February 3, 2006, EuroMillions had a prize of €183 million ($219m), which was shared between three winning tickets, two in France and one in Portugal, each winning €61,191,026.
The largest win on the British National Lottery, established in 1994, is currently £22,590,829 (US$40 million) won on 10 June 1995 by Paul Maddison and Mark Gardiner. The oldest person made a sterling millionaire by the lottery was Gracie Vera Coulson, who was 87 when she won £1,090,387 in December 1999. Two 16 year olds and two 17 year olds have also won between £1 and £2 million.
The Irish National Lottery, established in 1987 and replacing the Irish Sweepstakes which had run since 1930, has a guaranteed jackpot of €1,500,000 for each of its twice-weekly draws. The largest ever win was €7,892,753 won in May 1997 by an anonymous winner from Cork.