23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (2023)

Winning the lottery isn't all it's cracked up to be.

By Andrew Lisa Manage My Debt

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (1)

The odds of winning the Mega Millions or Powerball are slim — but the odds of your life devolving into chaos if you somehow pull it off are actually quite good.

Most lottery dreams share a few common themes: yachts and lobster tails, big tips, fast cars, the fast life and a mansion for mom. In reality, instant entry to the nouveau riche class has a way of wrecking friendships, destroying marriages, ending in bankruptcy or worse.

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Winning the lottery might seem like a dream come true, but mountains of unearned money are irresistible to greedy and resentful friends and relatives, con artists and charity cases, who scurry out of the woodwork to grab as much of it as they can. In other cases, it’s the lottery winners themselves who can’t get out of their own way — reckless spending, giving, partying and gambling leave some worse off than they started.

Read on to learn about the hardest-luck cases of lottery loss.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (2)

Jack Whittaker

In 2002, Jack Whittaker won a $314 million Powerball jackpot which, at the time, was the biggest lottery prize in history. The West Virginia construction worker, known for his outsized cowboy hats and even bigger personality, remains one of the most extreme cautionary tales about the lottery’s power to ruin lives. Whittaker reveled in the ability to give handouts, which he did until the money ran out, donating stacks of cash to churches, diner waitresses, family members, strangers and his local strip club.

His life turned to turmoil, according to ABC News. His wife left, his house burned down, he ran afoul of the law, he lost a daughter to cancer and a granddaughter to drugs. In 2020, Whitaker died at the age of 72.

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23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (3)

Lara and Roger Griffiths

Lara and Roger Griffiths’ marriage ended in divorce less than a decade after the British couple won a $2.19 million jackpot. Roger chased his rock star dreams and spent big bucks for his band to release an album. Lara got a taste for the high life as the couple paid for exotic cars, an expensive house, designer clothes and accessories, and a pricey private school for their daughter.

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They dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into opening a salon, where Lara later worked as an employee to make ends meet. In the end, the couple was left with less than $10.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (4)

David Lee Edwards

Five years after Kentucky resident David Lee Edwards won a $27 million jackpot, he was penniless and living in a storage shed with his wife. The couple squandered their fortune on the typical goodies that sink so many lucky winners. They bought dozens of high-end cars, mansions and a plane.

They blew through $3 million in the first three months. By the end of the first year, $12 million was in the wind. By 2006, the couple had spiraled into drug addiction, and just 12 years after the win changed the course of his life, David Lee Edwards died alone and broke in hospice care at the age of 58.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (5)

Mickey Carroll

Mickey Carroll was only 19 when he won a British jackpot that sent him into early adulthood with the equivalent of $11.8 million. The media dubbed him the “Lotto Lout” as the young winner tore through his newfound fortune with astonishing speed. Much of it went to drug-fueled partying, with the rest wasted on jewelry, cars and other materialistic excesses.

In 2016, he was earning a few hundred dollars a week working in a slaughterhouse. In 2021, he remarried his ex-wife, who left him for cheating with prostitutes during his high-rolling heyday, according to the Mirror.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (6)

Callie Rogers

Callie Rogers was another lucky Brit who cashed in big at a very young age, but she was even greener and less prepared to manage her money than Mickey Carroll. When Rogers won the equivalent of $2.3 million in 2003, she was only 16 years old.

A decade later in 2013, she had only around $2,500 left in the bank. She torched through the winnings due to drugs — Rogers dropped about $300,000 on cocaine alone — as well as plastic surgery, high-end clothing, gifts and partying.

Britain’s youngest lottery winner was later banned from driving after crashing her 4×4 during a police chase while she was high on drugs. In 2021, the Daily Mail Reported that Rogers was penniless and living on government benefits at the age of 33, 18 years after striking it rich.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (7)

Curtis Sharp

Curtis Sharp won $5 million playing the lottery in New York in 1982. Unfortunately, his story went from rags to riches and back to rags.

Sharp’s fortune would disappear too quickly due to multiple failed marriages gobbling up much of his newfound wealth, as did visits to the casino and reckless spending and giving.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (8)

Evelyn Adams

Evelyn Adams made lottery history when she won two multimillion-dollar New Jersey prizes, in 1985 and 1986. Her total haul was $5.4 million. Like so many other lucky winners, however, Adams couldn’t get out of her own way. She gambled much of the money away, gave too many gifts to family members, spent too much and made bad investments. According to Forbes, Adams blew it all and moved into a trailer.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (9)

William Post

William “Bud” Post was broke when he died in 2006, despite winning $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988. It didn’t last long. Just one year after he hit it big, Post was $1 million in debt. His ex-girlfriend sued him for part of his winnings and his brother reportedly hired a hitman to kill him, according to Forbes. The real problem, however, was his lavish spending. He bought houses, boats, cars and a twin-engine plane that he wasn’t even licensed to fly.

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23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (10)

Lisa Arcand

Massachusetts resident Lisa Arcand won a cool $1 million when she hit the lottery in 2004. It was all gone in less than four years. Arcand bought a furnished house and several vacations, but the biggest hit came in the form of a failed investment. Arcand opened a restaurant in her hometown of Lawrence, which she was forced to close within a few years.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (11)

Alex Toth

Alex Toth died broke in 2008 at the age of 60. He checked into a mental institution after splitting with his wife and getting charged with tax fraud by the IRS. All of this happened after the Florida resident won $13 million in the lottery. He chose to receive his winnings in annual installments, which were paid in the ominous amount of $666,666 each. He squandered it all on an excessive lifestyle.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (12)

Gerald Muswagon

Canadian Gerald Muswagon bought a $2 lotto ticket that made him an instant millionaire in 2011. He won a $10 million jackpot but blew through it in just a few short years.

He bought a house that doubled as a nightly party spot hosting his ever-growing legion of hangers-on. He also blew the cash on cars, partying and gifts, while racking up a string of legal entanglements, according to The Globe and Mail.

By the end, he was doing manual labor on a farm to support his girlfriend and six young children. Seven years after his big win, he hanged himself in his parents’ garage.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (13)

Janite Lee

South Korean immigrant Janite Lee was working at a wig shop when she won $18 million in the Illinois lottery in 1993. Eight years later, when she filed for bankruptcy, she had less than $700 in the bank and $2.5 million in debt.

Her donations were well-intentioned, but she simply gave too much. After donating huge sums to educational, political and social causes, she sold her rights to future annual payments in exchange for a lump sum, according to Time. But even that wasn’t enough to keep her out of bankruptcy court.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (14)

Marva Wilson

Swindlers, grifters and con artists see lottery winners as prey, a fact few people know better than Marva Wilson. The great-grandmother won $2 million in the Missouri lottery in 2008 and quickly became the target of a scammer named Freya Pearson.

Pearson smooth-talked her way into Wilson’s life — and bank accounts. Under the guise of helping her file a lien, handling her taxes and establishing a nonprofit in her name, Pearson stole and spent all of Wilson’s winnings. Pearson was eventually sentenced to five years in prison.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (15)

Willie Hurt

Willie Hurt won a $3.1 million Michigan Super Lotto jackpot in 1989. This was during the height of the crack epidemic, and Hurt was deeply tangled in the mayhem. His winnings became fuel for a raging rock cocaine addiction.

By 1991, he was broke and going through a divorce. He was also charged with murdering a woman while on a multiday drug and alcohol bender, the Associated Press reported.

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23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (16)

Ibi Roncaioli

One of the more bizarre and tragic stories of lost lottery fortune is the tale of Ibi Roncaioli, a Canadian woman who won a $5 million lottery jackpot in 1991 and died in 2003. Five years later, her husband, Dr. Joseph Roncaioli was convicted of poisoning her.

Ibi Roncaioli had squandered not only the lottery fortune but also the hefty salary her gynecologist husband earned. Authorities believe that the doctor hatched his plans when he discovered his wife’s double life, which authorities allege included alcoholism and reckless gambling, the Toronto Star reported.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (17)

Urooj Khan

Ibi Roncaioli isn’t the only lotto winner whose life ended with a lethal dose of poison. Chicago businessman Urooj Khan died suddenly at the age of 46 just a few weeks after he won $1 million in 2012 — he hadn’t even received the money yet, the Chicago Tribune reported.

His death was attributed to natural causes at first, but at the prodding of his family, a new test revealed he’d been poisoned to death with cyanide. As of 2021, his case remained unsolved.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (18)

Suzanne Mullins

Suzanne Mullins won a $4.3 million Virginia lottery jackpot in 1993, which she agreed to split three ways with her husband and daughter. Strung out over 20 years, however, her share of the annual installments were less than $50,000 each.

After paying for an uninsured relative’s lengthy illness, she was forced to borrow money with her future payments as collateral and went deep into debt. Mullins later took advantage of a change in lottery rules that let her receive her future payments in a lump sum, and she stopped making payments on the loan. In 2004, a judge ruled she owed $154,147 to the lender.

Denise Rossi

In 1996, a man named Thomas Rossi was shocked to learn that his wife of 25 years wanted a divorce from what he believed was a happy marriage — and she wanted it fast. He later learned that 11 days before she demanded a divorce, she had won $1.3 million in the California lottery.

He took her to court and a judge ruled that Denise Rossi intentionally broke asset-disclosure laws to hide the jackpot winnings. The judge awarded every penny of Denise’s winnings to Thomas Rossi.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (20)

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Evelyn Basehore

Evelyn Basehore beat one in 15 trillion odds when she won $3.9 million and $1.4 million within five months, playing the Pick Six lottery in 1985. She gambled much of it away, however, and gave away even more.

Unable to control her spending, it was all gone by the turn of the millennium. In 2000, the destitute Basehore moved into a Brick, New Jersey, trailer park, according to Time.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (21)

Billie Bob Harrell Jr.

In the entire sad history of lottery winners spending too much too fast, Billie Bob Harrell Jr. is in a class by himself. The Home Depot shelf-stocker blew through $31 million in just two years after winning the Lotto Texas jackpot. He and his wife bought houses and cars for themselves and their family members.

The deeply religious family also donated heavily to their church and individual members of the congregation. The money dried up, and the Harrell’s marriage fell apart. Less than two years after his lottery dreams came true, Harrell locked himself in a room and shot himself to death.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (22)

Sharon Tirabassi

In 2004, Sharon Tirabassiwon $10.5 million in a Lotto Super 7 jackpot in Canada. By 2013, she was riding a bus to the part-time job she worked to support her children — the winnings were all gone.

Excessive spending and giving defined her life in the years after she won. Assuming the money was bottomless, the vacations, cars, houses and handouts piled up until there was nothing left.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (23)

Keith Gough

In 2010, a 58-year-old former baker named Keith Gough drank himself to death. He was alone and penniless just five years after winning the equivalent of nearly $11 million with a lucky British lottery ticket.

Soon after winning, his once-stable life devolved into a blur of exotic cars, racehorses and luxuries like stadium box seats. Con men swindled him out of nearly $1 million, and he split from his wife of 25 years just two years after he won.

23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions (24)

Jeffrey Dampier

In 2016, the Oxygen network told the story of Jeffrey Dampier, a lottery winner found murdered in his truck in 2005. In 1996, he won the Illinois lottery to the tune of $20 million. He invested in a popcorn business and gave millions to friends and family members, but a woman named Victoria Jackson wanted it all after he decided to cut her off.

She was the sister of Dampier’s wife, but the two had a secret affair that lasted for years. She and her new boyfriend lured Dampier to a meeting and murdered him.

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Please note some photos are for representational purposes only. Some photos might not reflect the actual lottery winners listed in this article.

About the Author

Andrew Lisa

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.

Read More

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FAQs

What are the biggest mistakes lottery winners make? ›

Here are some mistakes to avoid and actions you could take instead.
  1. Going public with your win. ...
  2. Choosing the wrong payment option. ...
  3. Managing your new financial situation on your own. ...
  4. Buying everything. ...
  5. Ignoring debt. ...
  6. Making rash investment decisions. ...
  7. Filling your pockets with cash, literally. ...
  8. Continue playing the lottery.
25 Aug 2022

How many people who win lottery lose money? ›

Believe it or not, statistics show 70% of lottery winners end up broke and a third go on to declare bankruptcy, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education. Runaway spending, toxic investments and poor accounting can burn through a lucrative windfall in next to no time.

Who is the most famous lottery winner? ›

Andrew Jackson Whittaker Jr.

His win of US$314.9 million in the Powerball multi-state lottery was, at the time, the largest jackpot ever won by a single winning ticket in the history of American lottery. After winning the lottery, he was proximate to a number of crimes, and experienced several personal tragedies.

Where are most lottery winners from? ›

Here are the 10 states with the most Powerball winners:
  • Minnesota - 22.
  • Kentucky - 18.
  • Pennsylvania - 18.
  • Louisiana - 17.
  • Wisconsin - 17.
  • Arizona - 13.
  • Florida - 13.
  • Kansas - 11.

Can you stay anonymous after winning the lottery? ›

According to the California Lottery website, disclosure laws require the lottery to publicize the winner's full name and the name and location of the business that sold the winning ticket.

Why people go broke after winning lottery? ›

Uncontrollable spending

Another reason why lottery winners might go broke is reckless spending. Spending is an easy trap to fall into after receiving a big cash windfall. It's common for lottery winners to blow cash on extravagant things like luxury items, sports cars and gifts to family and friends.

How many people go broke after lottery? ›

Easy come, easy go

Whether they win $500 million or $1 million, about 70 percent of lotto winners lose or spend all that money in five years or less.

How do you give money to family after winning the lottery? ›

A lottery winner can make a gift of some of the lottery winnings. This is legal only up to the annual exclusion limit, or else it will need gift tax liability. Making yearly gifts in this fashion is a good way to share the winnings with family members and friends while mitigating the tax implications.

What's the largest unclaimed lottery ticket? ›

Here's a running list of the unclaimed jackpots in recorded Mega Millions history: Aug. 1, 2006: A $31 million jackpot went unclaimed in Queens, New York.

Do rich people play the lottery? ›

However, at the highest jackpots the sales are about the same (slightly over $16 per capita in the poorest zip codes and around $17 per capita in the richest). Basically, the poor play all the lotteries. The rich just go for the big ones, but when the big ones happen, they do it at the same level as the poor.

Are there lottery winners who are still rich? ›

Many people who won the lottery and became billionaires overnight were overcome by their good fortune and wasted it rapidly. However, some lottery winners have managed their money extremely well, making wise investments, and they are still wealthy today.

What are the 6 most common winning lottery numbers? ›

According to Lotto Numbers, the Mega Millions numbers that have appeared in the most draws since the start of the lottery are: 31, 17, 4, 20 and 10; while the most drawn Mega Ball number is 10. The least common numbers in recent years have been: 51, 49, 35, 55 and 5. The Mega Ball that has drawn the least is 7.

What are the taxes on 1 billion dollar lottery win? ›

Lottery winnings are considered regular taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service, and the winner of the $1.34 billion Mega Millions jackpot will be taxed according to the highest rate, which is 37%.

What 6 numbers are the most common in the lottery? ›

According to LottoNumbers.com, the most drawn Mega Millions main numbers are 2, 17, 31, 39, 4 and 46. The most common Mega Ball number is 3. The most common main numbers drawn in the Powerball game are 26, 41, 16, 28, 22 and 23. The most common Powerball is 6.

What is the first thing you should do if you won the lottery? ›

But before that happens, you need to make sure you secure your winnings.
  1. Be quiet about winning. ...
  2. Make copies of the ticket, secure it. ...
  3. Try to stay anonymous. ...
  4. Decide if you want to set up a trust. ...
  5. Sign your ticket. ...
  6. Annuity or lump sum. ...
  7. Be prepared for taxes. ...
  8. Plan for the future.
29 Jul 2022

How long does it take to get your money if you win the Powerball? ›

When you win a Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, there is a 15-day waiting period between the draw date and when the jackpot will be paid out, as money from ticket sales needs to be collected in order to pay out the jackpot.

Can the IRS take your lottery winnings? ›

Gambling winnings are fully taxable and you must report the income on your tax return. Gambling income includes but isn't limited to winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, and casinos. It includes cash winnings and the fair market value of prizes, such as cars and trips.

Is it better to take lump sum or annuity lottery? ›

Choosing a lump-sum payout can help winners avoid long-term tax implications and also provides the opportunity to immediately invest in high-yield financial options like real estate and stocks. Electing a long-term annuity payout can have major tax benefits. Federal taxes reduce lottery winnings immediately.

What kind of trust is best for lottery winnings? ›

What Kinds of Trusts Are Available to Lottery Winners?
  • Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts. Trusts generally fall under the categories of revocable and irrevocable. ...
  • Security of a Trust. ...
  • Exploring Blind Trusts. ...
  • Working With Asset Protection.

Why do lottery winners have to go public? ›

Many argue that for this reason, it's the public's right to know who won. Stories of ordinary people winning jackpot prizes are hugely beneficial to lotteries. The publicity helps generate interest in the lottery and boosts ticket sales.

Has anyone ever won Mega Millions with quick pick? ›

On July 8, 2016, an Indiana couple won this mega jackpot after buying 5 Quick Pick tickets on a road trip. The winning family was able to remain anonymous by accepting their prize through a law firm in the state.

What did lottery winners do with their money? ›

A history of past lottery winners shows a wide range of what players do with their winnings. Many have paid off debts, bought homes and invested their money, while others have put the cash toward building a water park, gambling in Atlantic City or starting a women's professional wrestling organization.

How can I protect my lottery winnings from taxes? ›

5 ways to avoid taxes on lottery winnings
  1. Consider lump-sum vs. annuity payments. ...
  2. Charitable donations. Donating some of the lottery money to charity will reduce your tax bill when you're a big winner. ...
  3. Gambling losses. ...
  4. Other deductions. ...
  5. Hire a tax professional.
25 Aug 2022

Who won lottery multiple times? ›

Richard Lustig was an American man who came to prominence for winning relatively large prizes in seven state-sponsored lottery games from 1993 to 2010. His prizes totaled over $1 million. He wrote Learn How To Increase Your Chances of Winning the Lottery.

How many lottery winners take the annuity? ›

Three out of the one hundred and two total Powerball winners have chosen to take the lump sum over the annuity. However, taking the cash upfront means you get a smaller amount of money in the end.

Which banks do lottery winners use? ›

Best Banks for Lottery Winners
  • HSBC Private Banking. HSBC's private banking account is for the ultra-rich. ...
  • Santander Private Banking. ...
  • Virgin Money Private Banking. ...
  • Lloyds Private Banking. ...
  • Private Banking Firms.

Would you tell your family if you won the lottery? ›

Don't announce to strangers or extended friends and family that you've won — at least not right away.” Keeping things private will help you avoid being bombarded with requests for money or unsolicited advice on how to use your earnings.

Do you have to tell your spouse if you win the lottery? ›

Right now only seven states allow lottery winners to maintain their anonymity: Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Texas, Ohio and South Carolina. And six states also allow people to form a trust to claim prize money anonymously. California entirely forbids lottery winners to remain anonymous.

How many lottery winners take the annuity? ›

Three out of the one hundred and two total Powerball winners have chosen to take the lump sum over the annuity. However, taking the cash upfront means you get a smaller amount of money in the end.

How long does it take to receive Powerball winnings? ›

When you win a Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, there is a 15-day waiting period between the draw date and when the jackpot will be paid out, as money from ticket sales needs to be collected in order to pay out the jackpot.

How much is annuity for lottery? ›

Each payment grows in size by 5% from the preceding year, which helps protect against inflation. If someone wins the jackpot of $100 million, they will receive about $1.5 million immediately, and then future annual payments would increase up to about $6.2 million.

Who won the highest Powerball jackpot? ›

BRAINTREE, MA – Mavis Wanczyk of Chicopee, MA is the sole winner of a $758.7 million Powerball jackpot after the numbers on her lucky ticket matched the first five winning numbers plus the Powerball (06-07-16-23-26, PB 04) selected in Wednesday night's drawing.

Is it better to take a lump sum or annuity for lottery? ›

Choosing a lump-sum payout can help winners avoid long-term tax implications and also provides the opportunity to immediately invest in high-yield financial options like real estate and stocks. Electing a long-term annuity payout can have major tax benefits. Federal taxes reduce lottery winnings immediately.

What is the first thing you should do if you win the lottery? ›

If you win the Mega Millions lottery, here are the first 2 things ... - YouTube

Why do most lottery winners take the lump sum? ›

A cash lump sum means accepting the entire payment all at once, while annuity means accepting a series of payments over time. It's more common for winners to take the lump sum, Blenner said, because it provides them with the freedom to invest as they wish with maximum available funds up front.

How do lottery winners receive their money? ›

How Does the Lottery's Payment System Work? By default, all Powerball, Mega Millions and SuperLotto Plus jackpots are paid in 30 graduated installments. A winner is given the opportunity to choose the cash value of their jackpot prize within 60 days following their approved claim.

What percentage is Powerball lump sum? ›

You'll fall into the highest tax bracket in the year you win if you take the jackpot in a lump sum. As of 2021, this means you'll likely owe the IRS at least 37% in taxes.

How much do you get from Powerball after taxes? ›

The winning cash prize of $747,200,000 after the 24% IRS withholding tax, drops to $567,872,000. But the winner shouldn't spend all that. After all, the federal income tax rate goes up to 37%, and you can assume that the winner is in the top 37% bracket.

Is it better to take a lump sum or monthly payments? ›

In most cases, the lump-sum option is clearly the way to go. The main difference between a lump-sum and a monthly payment is that with a lump-sum option, you get to have control over how your money is invested and what happens to it once you're gone. If that's the case, then the lump-sum option is your best bet.

How do you give money to family after winning the lottery? ›

A lottery winner can make a gift of some of the lottery winnings. This is legal only up to the annual exclusion limit, or else it will need gift tax liability. Making yearly gifts in this fashion is a good way to share the winnings with family members and friends while mitigating the tax implications.

Can lottery annuity be inherited? ›

If a jackpot winner dies before receiving all annual installments, the balance of the prize will be paid to the winner's estate. Upon receipt of a court order, annual prize payments will continue to be paid to the winner's heirs.

Who won the lottery twice? ›

twice. A New York man has defied the odds, not once, but twice, by winning the lottery two times. Juan Hernandez claimed his $10 million top prize Tuesday after playing the New York Lottery's $10 million deluxe scratch-off game, WABC said. He chose to receive his winnings in a lump sum of $6,510,000.

Who owns the lottery in USA? ›

In the United States, lotteries are run by 48 jurisdictions: 45 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Lotteries are subject to the laws of and operated independently by each jurisdiction, and there is no national lottery organization.

What happens if no one wins Mega Millions? ›

If a jackpot prize is not claimed within the required time limit (which varies by state), each participating state in the Mega Millions® game will get back all the money that state contributed to the unclaimed jackpot.

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