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Can Non-US Residents Play to Win the Lottery?

Are you eligible to win the lottery if you don’t live in the US?

Have you ever wondered who’s eligible to play the lottery in the United States?

Here are some common questions about buying lottery tickets:

  • Can you buy tickets if you aren’t a US resident, but want to win one of those huge lottery jackpots?
  • Can you buy US lottery tickets if you’re a citizen or a resident of a foreign country?
  • Can you cross state lines to buy lottery tickets?
  • What if you don’t have legal permission to be in the United States? Will you be able to claim the prize money if you win?

Here’s everything you need to know about who can and can’t play the lottery in the United States.

Who Can Play Mega Millions, Powerball, and Other US Lotteries?

You can buy US lottery tickets, win the Powerball and the Mega Millions lotteries, and collect your jackpot no matter what your US residence status is.

While there is an age restriction (you have to be at least 18 to play), adults can buy tickets in any state which offers the lottery even if you’re not a United States citizen, if you don’t live in the state selling the ticket, or even if you don’t live in the country at all.

Of course, since non-US residents are eligible to buy the tickets, they’re also eligible to claim the prize money should they win.

However, be aware that where you live will affect what happens when you win. For example, different states have different rules about whether lottery winners can remain anonymous.

Countries outside of the United States have different laws about how lottery prizes are taxed and how much money must be withheld from your winnings. If you do win, be sure to consult with a tax professional for more information.

If you’re trying to enter a lottery other than the Powerball or Mega-Millions games, check the rules before you enter for eligibility information.

Can you Buy US Lottery Tickets from Outside of the United States?

While non-US residents can enter and win the lottery, there’s a caveat: You have to actually be in the country to legally buy US lottery tickets. It’s illegal to buy lottery tickets over the internet or by mail — with some rare exceptions, such as a lottery app run by a company that sends an employee to physically buy tickets for its customers.

This’s important to keep in mind because many lottery scams trick people into believing that they’ve won lotteries from foreign countries. You can only win a foreign lottery if you bought a ticket while you were in that country. If you didn’t, you can throw those scam win notices away.

There are also scam websites that will take your money and promise to buy lottery tickets for you. Approach these sites with caution and be sure to check the company out carefully before handing over any money. Doing an internet search for the company’s name together with the word “scam” is a good first step.

Can an Undocumented Alien Win a US Lottery?

Because there are no residency restrictions about who can enter US lotteries, illegal immigrants can buy tickets and can claim their winnings. However, claiming the lottery winnings might make an illegal immigrant feel vulnerable to deportation.

For example, in 2011 Jose Antonio Cua-Toc won a $750,000 lottery and was afraid to claim it because he didn’t have a legal residency status. When he asked his boss to claim it for him, the boss took the money for himself.

However, winning the lottery might smooth the road to a green card. If you’re an undocumented immigrant and you have a winning lottery ticket, you should consult a legal professional before claiming your prize.

Can Felons Win Lottery Jackpots in the United States?

Rules vary from state to state, but in most cases, felons can legally buy lottery tickets and win jackpots.

In December of 2014, a story broke about Timothy Poole, a sex offender who won over $2 million in the Florida Super Millions scratch-off lottery.

Poole was convicted in 1999 of sexually battering a nine-year-old boy who was a friend of his family. Poole pleaded innocent but took a plea bargain, which included over a year in jail and registration as a sex offender.

The Florida lottery doesn’t have any restrictions regarding the criminal background of the entrants, which means that Poole received a lump sum of $2,219,807.90.

Many people were horrified to think that a sex offender could receive such an enormous prize. On the article linked above, Toni Tommas commented that it “Almost makes me question the existence of God.”  

While some people think it’s wrong that murderers and sex offenders can win millions from the state, others find it would be unfair to prevent someone from playing the lottery after they’ve paid for their crime and served their time.

There is a bright side to a felon winning a lottery jackpot, however; It might give the victims a way to be compensated for damages or restitution in a civil trial. It’s hard for a felon to claim he or she can’t pay when they have publicly won a lottery jackpot.

Who is eligible to buy US lottery tickets? Can a non-US resident claim a Powerball or MegaMillions lottery? What about illegal immigrants?

Hobbies and Interests

Despite the fact that lotteries provide a great source of government revenue for state programs, especially education, and a great amount of fun, there are 8 states that currently do not have state lotteries. The states that currently do not have lotteries are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. It is evident why most of these states continue to resist implementing a state lottery. For example, in Alabama, Mississippi and Utah, there is considerable religious opposition to all gambling. In Nevada, the casino industry opposes the lottery because of the competition it would create. Both Alaska and Hawaii are isolated from other states and therefore need not worry about losing money to nearby states. Lottery supporters in all eight of these states remain hopeful that a state lottery will eventually be put into place. If this happens, these 8 states could not only create their own exciting lotteries, but also participate in multi-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions.

In 1999, a constitutional amendment to allow a State Lottery was defeated in the state of Alabama. Approximately 54% of voters opposed the lottery referendum while 46%, supported it. The total voter turnout was estimated at 50%. There is a strong Christian argument against instating the lottery in the state of Alabama. There has been little talk since 1999 about another state lottery proposal.

In 2003 there was a lot of buzz about gambling proposals in the state of Alaska. However, unlike Alabama, Alaska never brought a state lottery proposal to ballot. There has been little talk lately of implementing a state lottery in Alaska.

There is much talk in Arkansas about instating a state lottery. In fact, on April 13th, 2008 Lt. Gov. Bill Halter announced that enough signatures had been collected to put a lottery proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot. The state lottery proposal in Arkansas is described as the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. The proceeds of the lottery would be used to fund scholarships and grants to citizens of Arkansas who are enrolled in public and private nonprofit colleges and universities located within the State. In 1996 and 2000, Arkansas voters rejected state lotteries whose proposals also included provisions for casinos. It seems the Arkansas citizens will get another chance to vote on an Arkansas state lottery at the end of this year.

Hawaii also does not have a state lottery. Like Alaska, there has been little talk lately in Hawaii about instating a state lottery. There are few arguments for or against a state lottery in Hawaii. Politicians’ main argument against a state lottery centers around the idea that it is unnecessary and is not needed for the education system to thrive.

While Mississippi does have casinos, it does not have a state lottery. In fact, proposals for a state lottery tend to be defeated in Mississippi because they would take away from casino profit. In 1990 a proposal for a state lottery was defeated in Mississippi. Like Alaska and Hawaii, there is little talk lately about the prospect of a state lottery in Mississippi.

Like Mississippi, state legislatures have continuously voted down the state lottery proposals because it will interfere with the casino industry. In fact, a proposal for a Nevada state lottery has failed 24 times since 1975, and the people have never gotten the chance to decide. In 2007, on the 25th try, a bill made it through the House of Representatives but it has not been acted on in the senate yet. This bill would allow voters to decide the issue, although the legislature would have to approve the bill again in 2009 before it would appear on the ballot in 2010. There is constant talk in Nevada about implementing a state lottery.

Utah is the only state that currently does not have a lottery that is not seriously consider implementing a state lottery. Like Mississippi and Alabama, there is widespread religious opposition to gambling. There is little talk lately of putting into place a state lottery in Utah where gambling is completely banned.

Like the preceding seven states, Wyoming does not have a state lottery. For over ten years, lawmakers in Wyoming have been considering a state lottery. A proposed bill was narrowly voted down in 2005 by the Wyoming House of Representatives. In February of 2007 a bill to introduce a state lottery was voted down again by the Wyoming House of Representatives by a vote of 31-27. The talk of a Wyoming state lottery continues and supporters are hopeful that a lottery will soon be put into place.

How You Can Play the Lottery

If you live in any of these non-lottery states and wish to play this or any other state lottery, simply log onto official state lottery websites. These sites explain how to purchase tickets, and often times tickets can be purchased online so you can play most state lotteries from the comfort of your own home. You can also refer to official state websites for custom lottery news. Many sites offer lottery number generators to help make your lottery number picking easier for you. If you would like to purchase your tickets in person, you can also visit a local lottery terminal. No matter how you choose to purchase your tickets, or which tickets you choose to buy, you’re bound to have some fun!

No matter how you choose to purchase your tickets, or which tickets you choose to buy, youre bound to have some fun! ]]>