Winning the lottery isn't always what it's cracked up to be. There are definitely some lottery horror stories that may make you think twice about buying a ticket. Still, it's human nature to hold out hope, even just a little bit, that we might be the lucky winner of millions. And not all lottery stories are bad — there are some happy endings out there, too! If you love playing already or want to start trying your luck, then here are some facts about the US lottery you may not know but should!
1. In 2014, Americans spent more than $70 billion on lottery tickets.
That's more than all movie tickets, music, books, video games, and sports tickets combined.
2. Winners are typically not able to stay anonymous — even if they want to.
Bad news for all those winners out there who don't want friends and family hitting them up for cash: the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries says that lawmakers want the process to be as transparent as possible. It's important to them that "the public to know that the lottery is honestly run and so require that at a minimum the name of the winner and their city of residence be made public. This way the public can be reassured that the prize really was paid out to a real person."
3. Only 44 states in the United States participate in the lottery.
Additionally, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have lotteries.
4. There are six states that don't have lotteries.
Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada all do not have state lotteries. Nevada opts out since the state benefits from its legal gambling taxes.
5. The chances of winning big are EXTREMELY low.
6. Lotteries are usually state run and fund a variety of important programs.
The NASPL states that "in many cases lottery profits are combined with tax and other revenues in a government's general fund. In other cases lottery proceeds are dedicated to a wide range of causes, including education, economic development, the environment, programs for senior citizens, health care, sports facilities, capital construction projects, cultural activities, tax relief, and others."
7. The average time a person has to claim a ticket is between six months and one year.
The exact amount of time depends on which state you live in, but many financial advisers will encourage winners to take their time weighing their options before deciding how and when to claim the money.
8. The biggest jackpot in US history was worth $1.5 billion.
The big event occured in January 2016. The winning tickets were sold in California, Tennessee, and Florida, according to state lottery officials, and the jackpot was split at least three ways. Before this year, the biggest prize was for $656 million back in 2012.
9. Winners usually have two options for how they want to claim their money.
They can claim one lump sum of cash or what's called the "annuity prize." The annuity prize offers winners a higher face value of the winnings because the money is invested for you in safe bonds. The downside is that the money is released to the winner over time. Many people opt for the cash lump-sum prize, which comes at a significantly lower face value of the total winnings but is given in the form of a one-time lump-sum payment. People often decide to try to invest the money themselves, but things don't always go as planned.
10. Lottery winnings are taxed VERY highly.
The IRS can take up to 40 percent of the prize money, then winners can also be additionally taxed by the state. As of 2015, New York City had one of the highest state lottery taxes at around 13 percent.
11. There's protocol for when prizes aren't claimed.
Here's how it works: the NASPL says that "the disposition of unclaimed prizes varies from lottery to lottery and is governed by the laws of that state or province. In some cases all unclaimed prizes reenter the prize pool and increase the payout on future games. In other cases the money goes to the government to benefit the causes the lottery supports."
12. Lottery tickets are sold at more than 240,000 locations throughout North America.
According to the NASPL, most of the locations where tickets are sold are retail outlets, convenience stores, gas stations, and grocery stores.