Since it launched in 1988, the Florida Lottery has created more than 1,000 new millionaires, awarded over $10 billion to lucky Floridians, and provided over $44 billion to the state’s education fund and Bright Futures scholarships. Powerball and Mega Millions came along later to create even more winners in our state and increase the intensity of those late-night pizza discussions when you and your friends spend hours earnestly working out just what you’d do with all the money.
But what are the odds of winning? What are the insider tips on picking the right numbers? What happens after you win?
Here’s the information, tips and advice we’re shared about playing the lottery in Florida.
What are the odds of winning the lottery in Florida?
- Florida Lotto: You have a 1 in 8.58 chance of getting two numbers right, which gets you a free ticket for the next drawing. The odds of getting all six numbers right are 1 in 22,957,480. (You can check their math here.)
- Powerball: You have a 1 in 292.2 million chance to match all six numbers. The odds of winning Powerball remain the same whether the jackpot is $20 million or $1 billion. Players do have a 1 in 24.9 chance of winning a prize, powerball.com states. Prizes range from $2 to the grand prize.
- Mega Millions: you have a 1 in 302,575,350 chance to match all five white balls plus the gold Mega Ball. Prizes range from $2 (for matching the Mega Ball) to the grand prize jackpot, which varies.
“The probability is so small, dare say impossible,” Jeffrey Miecznikowski, associate professor of biostatistics at the University at Buffalo, told the Associated Press. “It’s like trying to count electrons or drops of water in the ocean or grains of sand in the world. We just can’t imagine these types of things.”
To put it bluntly, the odds are against you to a ridiculous degree. Here are seven things more likely to happen than winning the Powerball or Mega Millions lottery.
Who are the biggest Florida lottery winners?
Here are Florida’s top 10 biggest lottery winners, so far, and here’s how we rank among the states with the most Powerball jackpot winners.
Lotto jackpots keep rising, with several of them surpassing $1 billion or more. Here’s what we know about the winners and the biggest lottery jackpots of all time.
Then again, winning doesn’t mean happiness, lifelong wealth or even safety. These seven top Florida lottery winners won big, and then lost everything.
What lottery numbers should I pick? Does buying more Powerball, Mega Millions tickets work?
The drawings are random. There is no right or wrong way to pick lottery numbers. People have tried maximizing their odds by playing lucky numbers or by playing every week, but the odds are so astronomical that unless you’re buying thousands or hundreds of thousands of tickets your odds won’t noticeably change.
“The only way to really increase the odds of winning any lottery is to buy more tickets,” Nicholas Kapoor, a professor at Fairfield University in Connecticut who won $1,000,000 from a Powerball ticket, more or less by accident. “The more tickets you buy, the more chances you have to win.”
You can improve your chances of not having to split your winnings, though. Since lots of people use children’s birthdays or wedding anniversaries, they tend to pick numbers 31 and below. Get random numbers or buy Quick Picks to improve your chances of being the only one with the right numbers. And never play numbers you see in a fortune cookie message unless you want to split your jackpot with 110 other people.
“If you pick numbers like birthdays or sequences that hundreds of people play (e.g., 1-2-3-4-5-6) you still have the same chance to win but your share of the prize would be a lot less,” Larry Lesser, a math professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said in an email.
Even if they are randomly drawn you can find some patterns, even if they don’t actually help you in future drawings in the slightest. Here are some off coincidences we found while looking at recent Powerball and Mega Millions winning numbers.
Can you buy lottery tickets online in Florida?
No. The Florida Lottery doesn’t sell tickets by mail, fax or online, and they do not offer a subscription service.
Can you buy lottery tickets with a debit card in Florida?
Maybe, depending on the retailer. Florida prohibits the purchase of lottery tickets with credit cards but doesn’t specifically say anything about debit cards. It’s up to the place where you buy them.
What do I do if I win the lottery? What shouldn’t I do?
Stay calm, protect your ticket, keep your mouth shut, and talk to some people who know how to handle money. Here’s a more detailed list of tips.
Just as important are the things you absolutely should not do when those winning numbers get called.
Should I take the lottery lump sum or installment payments?
That decision depends on your goals, your age, and what lottery rules are for beneficiaries to continue receiving payments, or if you’d likely squander a lump sum.
Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt, recommends considering the following:
- Size of the lottery winning: That can serve as a guide to determining taxes you may owe and the financial security you can derive from it. If the amount is on the smaller side, a lump sum may simply be easier.
- Current and projected earnings: Consider your ability to earn money and tax rates over your lifetime.
How much in taxes do I have to pay on Florida Lottery winnings?
If it’s more than $5,000 the IRS requires the Florida Lottery to withhold 24% of that total in federal withholding taxes. If you don’t have a Social Security card or you’re a resident alien, they’ll withhold 24% for any winnings of $600 or more. If you’re a non-resident alien, it’s 30% from all prize amounts.
However, lottery winnings may be taxed up to 37% so you may have to come up with the extra 13% on your own when the time comes. Talk to your tax person, soon.
The Internal Revenue Service requires the Florida Lottery to report all winnings for $600 and above for U.S. citizens and resident aliens.
How long do I have to claim my prize in the Florida lottery?
Depends on the game, and how you want to get paid.
Florida Lottery Draw game prizes: If the game offers a single-payment cash option (such as the Florida Lotto, Powerball or Mega Millions), you’ve only got 60 days after the winning numbers are drawn to claim it. But you’ve got 180 days from that date if you want the 30-annual-payment option.
Florida Lottery Scratch-Off and Fast Play game prizes: You’ve got 60 days from the drawing date to claim these. But if you get the ticket validated you’ve got 90 days to claim your winnings.
If I win, when do I get the money?
If you win less than $250,000, same business day. Anything more than $250,000 will get direct deposited within two business days. If you score a top prize in Mega Millions, Powerball or CASH4LIFE, those won’t get paid till 15 days after the winning numbers are drawn, and may have a two-day waiting period after that.
Are Florida Lottery winnings direct deposited or do I get a check?
Up to you. Winners can choose to get a check or have money wired directly to their accounts. If you win big, direct deposit is safer.
Where do I claim my Florida lottery prize?
Prizes of $599 or less you can get at any place that sells Florida lottery tickets.
Prizes of $600 to $999,999 you have to get at a Florida Lottery District Office if the game does not offer an annual payment option. You can find them at flalottery.com/lotteryOffices
Prizes greater than $1,000,000 plus all prizes with an annual payment option, congratulations! You’ll need to road trip to Tallahassee to the Florida Lottery Headquarters. You can submit your winning ticket to a Florida Lottery District Office to forward it to headquarters for processing and payment but you’ll have to claim it in Tallahassee.
Can Florida Lottery winners remain anonymous?
Not for long, sorry. But at least you get a head start.
By Florida law, the Florida Lottery must provide records of the winner’s name, city of residence, what they won, when they won it, and how much they won to anyone who asks. (Street addresses and phone numbers are kept confidential, for what that’s worth.)
But in May 2022 the state added a 90-day exemption for the names of anyone claiming prizes of $250,000 or more, starting from the date the prize was claimed, unless waived by the winner. So you have three months to get your affairs in order and hire someone to answer your phone.
What if I lose my Florida lottery ticket?
If you think your ticket has been lost or stolen, call the Florida Lottery’s Division of Security at (850) 487-7730. And don’t accidentally throw it in the trash.
How do I avoid Florida Lottery, Powerball and Mega Millions scams?
Everyone would like to win big, but that many big dreams mean perfect opportunities for scammers looking for vulnerable targets. Follow these tips on avoiding the most common lottery scams.
Contributors: Medora Lee, USA TODAY, Jennifer Sangalang, USA TODAY NETWORK Florida; Samantha Neely, Fort Myers News-Press
C. A. Bridges is a Digital Producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with multiple newsrooms across Florida. Local journalists work hard to keep you informed about the things you care about, and you can support them by subscribing to your local news organization. Read more articles by Chris here and follow him on Twitter at @cabridges