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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?

Powerball FAQs

If there’s anything you need to know about Powerball, you can find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the game below, including how to play, how to buy tickets, why Power Play isn’t available in California, and much more. If your question isn’t answered here, head over to the Information page to find detailed guides and articles covering all aspects of Powerball.

Powerball drawings take place every Wednesday and Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida, at approximately 10:59pm ET.

Ticket sales close approximately one hour before the draw, but cut-off times may vary between states. We would advise that you check the exact sales cut-off time with your state lottery provider.

You can enter Powerball draws in advance, but how far in advance will vary between states. In California, for example, you can play up to 10 draws in advance, while in Florida you can enter up to 52 consecutive drawings at once.

If you don’t want to choose your Powerball numbers yourself, you can ask your retailer for a Quick Pick to receive a line of randomly generated numbers. In most states you can only Quick Pick an entire line, but some allow you to do it for just the main numbers or the Powerball. See the Quick Pick vs Own Numbers page to learn more.

Power Play is an optional add-on to the main Powerball draw that you can enter for an extra $1 per line. If you opt in, any non-jackpot prizes you win will be multiplied by up to 10 times their original value. Your prize could be multiplied by 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, or even 10x, based on the Power Play number selected shortly before the main Powerball draw.

The Match 5 prize of $1 million will only increase to a maximum of $2 million, regardless of which multiplier is selected, and the 10x multiplier is only in play when the advertised jackpot is $150 million or less.

By law, all Californian lottery prizes must be pari-mutuel, meaning they are determined by the number of tickets sold and the number of winners in each prize tier. As the Power Play multiplies prizes by a fixed amount, it cannot be calculated on a pari-mutuel basis, so it is not offered to players in California.

To win a prize, you must match as many of your chosen numbers as possible with those drawn in the lottery. The more numbers you match, the greater your prize. You can win for matching just the Powerball, while the jackpot is won by matching all five main numbers plus the Powerball. The table below shows what prizes you can win and how many numbers you need to match.

Match Prize
5 + Powerball Jackpot
5 $1 million
4 + Powerball $50,000
4 $100
3 + Powerball $100
3 $7
2 + Powerball $7
1 + Powerball $4
Powerball $4

The jackpot is shared equally between all players that match all six numbers in the same draw. For example, if the jackpot is worth $100 million and four players match all six numbers, they will each win $25 million before tax. All other prizes are fixed amounts. Head over to the Prizes page to find out more.

No, you can match the five main numbers on your ticket with the five main numbers drawn in any order. The Powerball, however, is not interchangeable with any of the other numbers, so the Powerball stated on your ticket must match the one drawn, and it cannot be used to match any of the other numbers.

The Powerball jackpot is calculated on a pari-mutuel basis, meaning that it changes depending on the number of tickets sold and how many winners there are.

Powerball rules dictate that 50 percent of the revenue from the sale of every Powerball ticket goes into the prize pool, and between 60 and 68 percent of that is allocated to the jackpot, depending on its value in the previous draw. The page about pari-mutuel prizes goes into more detail about this.

Yes, you can play Powerball even if you don’t live in the United States. Find out more on the Buy Tickets page.

Yes, but you would need to travel to one of the participating states to buy a ticket. Any prizes you win must also be claimed in the state in which you bought your ticket, so bear this in mind before travelling long distances to play.

The claim process depends on the amount of money you win and the state in which you play. In most states you will be able to claim prizes of less than $600 from any licensed Powerball retailer. Prizes over this value will generally need to be claimed from a regional lottery office or central headquarters. Some states also allow you to claim by mail.

Depending on the state, you have between 90 days and a year from the date of the winning draw to claim a prize. If you play online, you will automatically be notified of a win by email. See the How to Claim page for more information.

In some states you may not be able to claim a prize at all if you lose your ticket, while in others you may be asked to provide certain details about when and where you bought it to help prove that you are the rightful owner. In all cases, the first thing you should do is contact your state lottery to report the loss.

Each state lottery has rules to determine where any unclaimed prize money goes. In most cases the money will be used to fund public projects or good causes in the state. You can find more information about this on the Unclaimed Prizes page.

You must be at least 18 years of age to play Powerball in most states, but in Nebraska you must be at least 19 years old, and in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi you must be 21 or older.

Larger Powerball prizes, including the jackpot, are subject to federal taxes, as well as state taxes where applicable. A federal tax of between 24 and 37 percent will be applied, and then state taxes will be taken on top of that. Some locations, such as New York City, also levy a local tax on lottery winnings, which will be taken in addition to federal and state taxes.

You will be taxed according to the rules in the state where you bought your ticket. This means that if you live somewhere that does not have a state tax, but you buy your ticket from somewhere that does, you will be liable to pay state tax on your winnings. See the Powerball Taxes page for further details.

Fifty percent (so $1) from the sale of every Powerball ticket goes into the prize pool for that draw. The remaining money is then used to cover operating costs, expenses and commissions, and to contribute to public or charitable projects. Each state determines where revenue will be allocated and which projects will benefit. You can find out more on the Distribution of Revenue page.

A lottery pool – also known as a syndicate or group play – gives you the opportunity to team up with other players to improve your chances of winning. In standard pools, every member contributes an agreed amount of money to buy Powerball tickets, and if any of the tickets bought by the group win a prize, the money is shared equally among all members.

If you’re planning on joining a lottery pool, be aware that state lotteries have very specific rules about how many people can be named as claimants in the event of any prize wins. The Powerball Lottery Pools page will tell you more.

The odds of winning a prize in Powerball are 1 in 24.87 and the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 292,201,338.

The main number pool ranges from 1 to 69 and the Powerball pool is from 1 to 26.

The guaranteed minimum jackpot is $20 million ( * During the Coronavirus pandemic, the starting jackpot may be lower than this).

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million, and the size of the jackpot has no bearing on your chances of winning. The pool of numbers you have to choose from and the number of balls drawn in each game stays the same from draw to draw, so your chances of winning don’t change. The number of tickets sold also does not influence your chances of winning, as you’re not competing against other players.

The only time the odds of winning change is when the official Powerball rules are updated and the number matrix changes. This has happened several times since the lottery began, and in each case the changes were highly publicized in advance. If the pool of numbers is ever due to change again, chances are that you will hear about it.

No, the jackpot will roll over until a player is able to match all five numbers and the Powerball.

The biggest Powerball jackpot on record was worth $1.58 billion and was won by three ticket holders from California, Florida, and Tennessee on Wednesday January 13th 2016. John and Lisa Robinson of Munford, Tennessee, David Kaltschmidt and Maureen Smith of Melbourne Beach, Florida, and Marvin and Mae Acosta of Chino Hills, California, all won $528 million before taxes. Each of the winners chose a lump sum of $327 million.
The largest single-ticket jackpot in Powerball history was won by a Wisconsin resident on Wednesday March 27th 2019. The ticket was bought from an undisclosed retailer in New Berlin, entitling the winner to an annuity of $768 million. For more information on some of Powerball’s largest prize winners, including a state-by-state breakdown of where each jackpot winning ticket was purchased, visit the Winners page.

Every number has an equal chance of being drawn, regardless of previous results. For example, a number that hasn’t been seen for six months and one that was drawn last week have an equal chance of appearing in the next drawing. Although there are many systems that can help you choose which numbers to play, none of them increase the chances of a particular number being drawn.

There is only one guaranteed way of winning Powerball: buy every single number combination. With nearly three million combinations, however, this is not realistic. The more Powerball lines you purchase, however, the better your chances. The best way to do this is by forming or joining a lottery pool with friends, family, or work colleagues, as you can spread the cost of buying tickets between you.

A single ticket costs $2 and if you would like to add the Power Play option, it costs an extra $1.

The Numbers page shows all the latest results from recent Powerball draws, while the Ticket Checker page will show you what prizes your numbers have won over the last 180 days.

You can watch the Powerball drawings on TV networks such as FOX, NBC, CBS, and ABC. For a full list of networks and stations, see the Watch Drawings page.

If you win the Powerball jackpot, you have the choice of taking the money as annuity payments or as a lump sum. If you opt for the lump sum, you will receive all the money that has accumulated in the jackpot prize pool at the time of the draw, whereas if you take the annuity, that money is invested and paid out over 29 years. The value of the annuity is always higher than the lump sum, as you receive the returns from the investments as well as the initial jackpot amount. See the Cash vs Annuity page for further information.

The annuity value of a jackpot (see the question above) is always used when advertising it prior to a draw. If a jackpot winner opts to take a cash lump sum instead of the annuity payments, the value of the prize will be less than advertised.

Occasionally – but rarely – the jackpot may have to be adjusted to a lower amount than estimated if ticket sales for a particular drawing aren’t as high as was predicted. This can only be done after a draw has taken place, once final ticket sales have been calculated.

The lump sum or first annuity payment of a jackpot will usually be paid within a few days of the winning ticket being validated and after the requisite identity checks have been conducted. Winners may also have to fulfil certain media obligations before the payment is released, although this will vary between states.

You can remain anonymous if you win a prize in the following states: Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Winners in Puerto Rico can also retain their anonymity.

In Arizona, winners are eligible for anonymity if their prize exceeds $100,000. Virginia offers anonymity to lottery winners of over $10 million. In Georgia, only winners of prizes over $250,000 can remain private. In West Virginia, winners can only remain anonymous if they have won $1 million or over, and pay five percent of their prize money to the State Lottery Fund.

State lotteries will never contact you directly to notify you of a prize you have won. If you receive a message or phone call telling you that you’ve won a prize, it is a scam, especially if the caller or sender of the message asks you to disclose personal information or pay a fee. The Scams page has all the information you need to help protect yourself against such fraud.

The next Powerball draw is on the November 28.

The next Powerball jackpot is estimated at $216,000,000.

Commonly Asked Powerball Questions and Answers. When do Powerball draws take place, how long do I have to claim a prize, what is the Power Play, etc.