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Largest Single US Lottery Payout Gives Winner $759 Million

2017-8-24

A very lucky person has won the largest single lottery payout in United States history - $758.7 million.

A 53-year-old hospital worker from Massachusetts, Mavis Wanczyk, came forward Thursday to claim her prize in the Powerball drawing. She said she had quit her job and wanted to take some time to relax.

Lottery officials say she chose to take a single payment of $480 million, or $336 million after taxes. Winners can also choose to receive the jackpot in 30 payments over 29 years.

The winning numbers were drawn Wednesday night in the Powerball, which is played in most U.S. states. The matching numbers were 6, 7, 16, 23 and 26, with the Powerball number 4.

Wanczyk bought her ticket Wednesday at a store in a small Massachusetts town. She said for some of the winning numbers, she chose birthdays of people she knows.

The jackpot was the second-largest overall lottery prize in U.S. history. The biggest jackpot ever was a $1.6 billion Powerball payout in 2016. But that prize was shared among three winners.

A cashier, left, makes a sale at the Pride Station & Store, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Chicopee, where the lone winning ticket for the $758.7 million Powerball drawing was sold. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A cashier, left, makes a sale at the Pride Station & Store, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Chicopee, where the lone winning ticket for the $758.7 million Powerball drawing was sold. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Lottery officials reported the odds of winning Wednesday’s Powerball were one in 292.2 million.

The Powerball lottery is held twice a week, with numbers drawn from two containers. One container holds 69 numbered balls, from which five are drawn. Another ball – known as the Powerball - is selected from the other container. To win the full jackpot, a person must match all six numbers.

Why does the jackpot grow so large?

The jackpot continues to grow each time there is no top prize winner. The last time someone matched all six Powerball numbers was June 10, when a California man won $447.8 million.

The jackpots have been growing larger because there are fewer big winners. This is because lottery officials have made changes to the game that make the odds of winning more difficult, The Washington Post reports.

Two years ago, the chances of winning were about 1 in 175 million. This compares to the latest drawing’s odds of one in 292.2 million.

This resulted from a change to the game in October 2015, when Powerball increased the number of balls from 59 to 69, according to the newspaper.

Experts say the bigger the jackpot gets, the amount of media coverage also increases, driving ticket sales higher and higher. Several studies have shown that lower-income Americans buy most of the lottery tickets.

American states benefit from lottery sale

But the huge lottery payoffs do not only benefit the winners. U.S. states participating in lotteries also get a percentage of revenue, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some states put the lottery earnings in a general state fund, which can be used for many things. But many others set the money aside for specific purposes - such as education, environmental programs or anti-crime efforts.

Some states even earn more money from the lottery than from income taxes on companies, according to Reuters news agency.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His report was based on stories from the Associated Press and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Do you play the lottery? Does a bigger jackpot want you to buy a ticket? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.

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Words in This Story

relax v. spend time resting or doing enjoyable things

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

odds – n. the probability that something will happen

benefit v. be useful or helpful

revenue n. money collected for public use

potential – adj. capable of becoming something in the future