DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Monday night’s estimated $1.9 billion Powerball jackpot is nearly $400 million bigger than the previous record jackpot and will continue to grow until someone finally wins the prize.
The jackpot started at $20 million back on August 6 and has grown to 95 times that amount over the course of three months without a win. In other words, it’s an insane amount of money.
WHY SO LONG WITHOUT A WINNER?
Those who spend $2 on a Powerball ticket might wonder if something is wrong when 40 drawings go by without a jackpot winner, but that’s how the game is designed. With odds of 1 in 292 million, this means that it is unlikely that anyone will win the prize until the growing jackpot attracts more players. And more ticket sales means the lottery can raise more money for public programs, which is the point of state lotteries. Still, it’s been an awfully long time without a jackpot, and if there’s no winner on Monday night, a new record will be set: 41 draws without anyone matching all six numbers.
A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE TO PLAY NOW, RIGHT?
Yes and no. Many, many more people are buying tickets now that the jackpot has reached nearly $2 billion. This is clear from the fact that when the jackpot started at $20 million over the summer, players only bought enough tickets to cover less than 10% of the 292.2 million possible number combinations. For the Saturday night draw, that goes up to 62%, so millions and millions of people are playing. But that percentage is still less than the 88.6% coverage achieved for the previous record jackpot in 2016. And if 38% of possible number combinations aren’t covered, there’s a good chance there won’t be a winner.
WILL THE FINAL WINNER REALLY WIN $1.9 BILLION?
Too bad for the poor Powerball winner, because the lucky ticket holder won’t see anything close to $1.9 billion. The only question is how much less.
First, that $1.9 billion prize is for winners who choose to pay through an annuity, which sends a check annually for 29 years, increasing by 5% each year. But almost no winners take an annuity, opting instead for cash. For Monday night’s drawing, the prize money would be $929.1 million, or less than half of the annuity prize.
Federal taxes would take an additional bite, reducing the payout by more than a third, and many states would also tax lottery winnings.
The gap between annuities and cash awards has been widening recently as inflation has resulted in higher interest rates, meaning that money invested in an annuity can grow.
DO I HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF WINNING IF I BUY MORE TICKETS?
Yes, but your chances of winning are not significantly improved. Think of it this way: If you buy one ticket, you have a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning the jackpot. If you spend $10 on five-number combinations, your odds are better, but with 5 out of 292.2 million you’re still almost certainly not going to hit the jackpot. The same is true if you spend $100. Lottery officials say the average player buys two or three tickets, meaning they’re betting money on a dream with very little chance of it paying off in rich reality.
WHERE IS POWERBALL PLAYED?
Powerball is played in 45 states, as well as in Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.