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$450 Million Powerball Prize Causes Frenzy

Are you feeling lucky?

“The hope keeps you going. And someone’s gotta win.”

News spread early in the week that the Powerball lottery – a game of chance played in all but six U.S. states – would top $450 million before the drawing late Wednesday night.

If there is a last-minute surge in buying the $2 tickets, the final jackpot could become one of Powerball’s largest of all time.

Last year, the pot of money, or jackpot, reached $564 million. Winners bought tickets in Puerto Rico, North Carolina and Texas.

The last Powerball winner was selected in November. The jackpot has increased since there was not a winner.

The largest Powerball prize happened in 2013 when a woman from Florida won $590 million.

The Associated Press news agency reports the largest U.S. lottery jackpot was won in a Mega Millions game in 2012. It was $656 million.

Before you get too excited, think of this.

The odds of winning are one-in-292 million. Those odds are calculated from all possible combinations using the numbers one through 69. An additional bonus number is called the “powerball” which can be one through 26.

A mathematician runs the website He provides a breakdown of how to calculate the odds.

If more tickets are sold, the only thing that changes is that the odds of multiple jackpot winners increases slightly.

And what if you win?

The winner can choose to receive her or his winnings in one payment, called a lump-sum. After paying federal tax on those winnings, which the government considers income, the winner would receive over $200 million.

The state where the winner lives may also take 4 percent to 8 percent more in state taxes.

That would leave the winner with around $190 million.

Enough to live a nice life, right?

VOA Learning English asked people buying tickets in Washington, D.C., what they would do with the money if they won.

“What’s the first thing? ... First thing I’m going to do is retire. Then I’m going to move to Georgia. Buy me a beautiful home, and just fish.”

“I would be shocked. But I would probably give back to my community. And look out for my family, and the people that looked out for me.”

In the U.S., the store that sells the winning ticket gets a bonus, too. It varies from state to state, but it could be as much as 1 percent of the total prize.

One man named Reza, who runs a store in Washington, told us what he would do with the bonus.

“Actually, I’ve not confirmed. But I hear they’ll give me $1 million. [What would that mean to you?] It’s very good for me. [What can do you do with $1 million?] I’ll expand my business, yeah.”

But the Powerball lottery is nothing compared to the big Christmas lottery each year in Spain.

There, “El Gordo,” which means “the fat one,” has thousands of winners and a prize pool of close to $3 billion.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English based on reporting from the Associated Press and USA TODAY. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

What would you do with a big lottery jackpot? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

breakdown – n. the process or result of showing the different parts of something in order to understand it more clearly

jackpot – n. a usually large amount of money won in a game of chance

lottery – n. a way of raising money for a government, charity, etc., in which many tickets are sold and a few of the tickets are chosen by chance to win prizes

surge – n. a sudden, large increase

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