Powerball: What you need to know before you play for $1B jackpot

A California Lottery display shows projected winnings for the next Powerball drawing in a convenience store on July 18, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. The Powerball jackpot for the drawing on July 19th is now estimated to be $1 billion after three

With the Powerball jackpot topping $1 billion for this week's drawing, millions of people across the country will be lining up at convenience stores, grocery and gas station counters hoping to hit it big.

How does this latest Powerball Jackpot stack up?

The new jackpot for Wednesday’s drawing would be the seventh highest in U.S. history and the third largest for Powerball. If a sole player picks all five numbers plus the Powerball number drawn, they have the option of taking the $1 billion prize in yearly increments paid out over 29 years or a $516.8 million one-time lump sum before taxes. The last time someone won the Powerball jackpot was April 19 for a top prize of nearly $253 million. Since then, no one has won the grand prize in the past 38 drawings. The jackpot will keep growing until someone wins.

What can you buy with $1 billion?

Pretty much anything you want. A billion dollars could buy you around 200 Bugatti Mistral Roadsters, dozens of eight-seater private jets, or several private islands in the Caribbean. But don't make the mistake of thinking you could never spend it all, warned Shean Fletcher, a wealth advisor in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Among things to keep in mind are that huge jackpots also bring huge tax bills, he said. Not just on the money itself, but high-dollar houses, cars, planes and other property also usually come with big recurring tax and upkeep bills. The idea that lottery winners can just spend lots of money daily forever is a fallacy that has seen more than one lottery winner blow through their winnings, he noted.

"So by far, the biggest misconception that we hear or read and see is, is that the money seems to be infinite when it certainly is not," Fletcher said.

So what should you do if you win?

First and foremost is to secure the winning ticket by putting it in a safe place such as a fireproof safe. Then you should start putting your "team" together, Fletcher advised. That likely includes your closest, most trusted family members, like your spouse, a parent or sibling, as well as a financial adviser, lawyer and certified public accountant. Then you can start making plans on what you want to do with the money.

"After the initial excitement, you know, take a deep breath and take it slow," Fletcher said.

Mega Millions Jackpot is soaring, too

The $1 billion Powerball top prize is drawing the lion's share of attention, but the competing Mega Millions lottery jackpot is also reaching massive heights. Ahead of a drawing Tuesday night, that jackpot stood at $640 million, the seventh-largest in the game’s history.

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Why are lottery jackpots so large these days?

That's how the games have been designed. The credit for such big jackpots comes down to math -- and more difficult odds. In 2015, the Powerball lottery lengthened the odds of winning from 1 in 175.2 million to 1 in 292.2 million. Mega Millions followed two years later, lengthened the odds of winning the top prize from 1 in 258.9 million to 1 in 302.6 million. The largest lottery jackpots in the U.S. have come since those changes were made.

What are the biggest jackpots ever won in America?

The largest — a whopping $2.04 billion — was a Powerball jackpot that hit on Nov. 8, 2022, with the winning ticket sold in California. The next largest jackpot was also a Powerball prize, at $1.586 billion on Jan. 13, 2016. But that prize was split among three winning tickets, sold in California, Florida and Tennessee. The third, fourth and fifth largest were each Mega Millions prizes, at $1.537 billion going to a single winner in South Carolina on Oct. 23, 2018; $1.35 billion won in Maine earlier this year on Jan. 13; and $1.337 billion won in Illinois on July 29, 2022.

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As the lottery ads say: Play responsibly 

Your odds of winning are only slightly improved by buying more than one ticket. And the odds are so long that it's certainly not worth spending money you'll miss for more tickets, experts warn. If buying one ticket gives you a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning the jackpot, spending $10 for five number combinations improves your chances to only 5 in 292.2 million. The same is true is you spend $100. So you could spend a lot of money on tickets and still almost undoubtedly not hit the jackpot. Lottery officials say the average player buys two or three tickets, meaning they’re putting money down on a dream with very little chance it will pay off in a jackpot win.

Where is Powerball played?

Powerball is played in 45 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ingram contributed from Kansas City, Missouri.