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5 things to know about winning Mega Millions or Powerball in California

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The lack of a Mega Millions winner Tuesday means the jackpot will be at least $750 million on Friday, and the Powerball draw on Wednesday is for an estimated $550 million jackpot.

If you plan to claim one of the fortunes, the California lottery office lays out the details in its “winner’s handbook.” Among them:

You can’t remain anonymous. California makes public the name of the winner and the location where the ticket was bought. Even if you create a trust to claim the prize, your name will be revealed. You are not, however, required to show up for the press conference and the photo with the large check.

If you have a common name and buy your ticket outside your home city, you can get a degree of anonymity. For instance, little is known about Steve Tran, who in 2013 bought a Mega Millions ticket worth $324 million while he was on a work-related visit to San Jose.

Some other states allow winners to conceal their names. All that is known about the winner of the largest single-ticket U.S. jackpot ever — $1.54 billion, in October 2018 — is what she allowed to be revealed: She was taking a “scenic drive” out of town when she bought the ticket in Simpsonville, South Carolina, and she allowed another customer to go ahead of her in the checkout line.

You have up to a year to claim the prize. That’s for the big jackpot; smaller prizes must be claimed in 180 days.

The lottery office advises winners to take some time to prepare for the life-changing event — engaging an attorney, an accountant and a financial adviser, establishing a trust or charitable foundation for tax purposes, and such. But keep in mind that a longer wait means you’ll be missing out on the interest you could be accruing. The abovementioned South Carolina winner waited five months to claim her prize — which, as a lump sum of $877,784,124, would have earned substantial interest even in a savings account.

The California lottery office often publicizes when a deadline is nearing for a big prize with no winner having stepped forward. In 2012, it took the unusual step of releasing a video image of a presumed Mega Millions jackpot winner after the winning ticket had been run several times through a check-your-prize scanner. A Fremont couple then claimed the $52 million and said they hadn’t realized the ticket was a winner because the scanner said only “see the clerk.”

You’ll get the prize in 30 yearly installments unless you specify otherwise. The figure given for a jackpot is always the annuity amount, and that is the default method of payment. Most winners, however, choose to take the smaller lump sum. The California lottery site lists the “cash amount” of each jackpot. — for instance, a $750 million annuity would be a $550,600,000 lump sum. You have 60 days after your claim is approved to turn in the form requesting the lump sum. If a group is sharing a jackpot, all members must elect the same type of payout.

You can designate someone to receive the remaining years of your annuity. Don’t think you’ll make it 30 years? You can designate a beneficiary through the lottery office. You can also sell your future prize payments or use them as collateral for a loan.

Your federal taxes will be withheld from your winnings. The lottery’s 2019 guide says that’s 24% for U.S. citizens or resident aliens, 30% for anyone else. In California, no state or local tax is withheld.

One coronavirus note: Because of the pandemic, the lottery’s district offices — including those in Milpitas and Richmond — are closed to the public, and prizes of $600 and up can currently be claimed only by mail.

If you plan to claim one of the fortunes, the California lottery office lays out the details in its "winner's handbook."

California Lottery

California Lottery’s motto is “imagine the possibilities.” The lottery not only gives players the chance to win impressive prizes – ticket sales also benefit public schools, colleges and universities throughout the Golden State. The California Lottery has raised more than $26.6 billion for education since 1985, and 87% of its sales must be returned to the public as prizes or contributions to education. The CA Lottery is a revenue-generating State Agency that does not receive General Fund or taxpayer dollars.

Check the table below to find out the draw days and times for all the exciting CA Lottery games. All times are PT.

California Lottery Drawing Schedule
Game Draw Days Draw Times* Ticket Sales Close At*
Powerball Wednesday & Saturday 7:59 PM 7:00 PM
Mega Millions Tuesday & Friday 8:00 PM 7:45 PM
SuperLotto Plus Wednesday & Saturday 7:57 PM 7:45 PM
Fantasy 5 Daily 6:30 PM 6:30 PM
Daily 4 Daily 6:30 PM 6:30 PM
Daily 3 Daily 1:00 PM and 6:30 PM 1:00 PM and 6:30 PM
Daily Derby Daily 6:30 PM 6:30 PM
Hot Spot Daily Every 4 minutes from 6:00 AM to 2:00 AM N/A
*Times are shown in PST. For all games, except Powerball and Mega Millions, drawings are held immediately after ticket sales close.

Game Information

California offers exciting draw games, many of which give you the chance to win every day. If you want an even faster-paced game, play Hot Spot, which is drawn every four minutes! Californians can also play the Mega Millions and Powerball games, with their multi-million dollar jackpots.

  • SuperLotto Plus: This exciting game has draws every Wednesday and Saturday and nine ways to win. The jackpot starts off at $7 million and keeps rolling over until someone wins! All you have to do is pay $1 per line and pick five numbers from 1 to 47 and a MEGA number from 1 to 27.
  • Fantasy 5: Pick five lucky numbers from 1 to 39. Each play costs $1 and drawings take place daily. Play $5 or more on one ticket to receive a Fantasy 5 – 2nd Chance code for an extra chance to win. The largest Fantasy 5 jackpot ever won was $729,505.
  • Daily 4: Offers daily drawings, three playstyles and even more ways to win. Just pick your favorite four numbers from 0 to 9, like your birthday or anniversary, for a chance to win from $1 per play.
  • Daily 3: Good things come in threes! Daily 3 has two daily drawings, three playstyles and multiple ways to win. Choose your three lucky numbers from 0 to 9 for a chance to win, from $1 per play. Daily 3 is drawn twice a day, Midday and Evening.
  • Daily Derby: With two chances or more to win on every ticket and daily drawings, the race for the Grand Prize is on! Choose your three favorite horses and the amount of time you think it will take your first place horse to finish ($2 per play).
  • Hot Spot: This fast-paced game is drawn every four minutes! Choose 1 to 10 Spots (sets of numbers) you want to play per draw. Pick your numbers from 1 to 80 – the numbers must equal the number of Spots you selected. For example, if you picked a “3 Spot” you must play three numbers.

Other Games

Scratchers, also known as “scratch-offs” or “instant-win games”, can be purchased from any authorized California Lottery retailer. These games cost anywhere between $1 and $20, and can offer prizes of up to $5 million. If you’re looking for a quick hit of lottery fun without waiting for an official drawing to take place, then a scratcher game is perfect for you!

Buying California Lottery Tickets

Claiming Prizes

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been some changes in the way you claim prizes in California. You can find updates on our dedicated Coronavirus Lottery Updates page.

If you want to claim a California Lottery prize, you’ll have 180 days from the date of the draw for which you bought a ticket. The only exceptions are the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots, which give you one year from the date of the winning jackpot to claim your prize.

Prizes of any amount may be claimed by mail. Any lottery prize worth $599 or less can also be claimed at any California Lottery retailer. You can also visit any California Lottery District Office if you’d like to process the claim in person.

If you win a lottery prize worth more than $600 then the Lottery must inform the IRS about the win.

It may take between six and eight weeks for your claim to be processed by the California Lottery, so you’ll have a lot of time to think about how to spend your winnings!

Claim a prize by mail

To redeem a prize of any value by mail, sign your ticket and complete a claim form.

Keep a copy of the documents, and send the originals to:

California State Lottery
730 North 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811

History of the Californian Lottery

The California Lottery was established in 1984 by means of a ballot measure known as Proposition 37. The revenue raised from the new lottery was – and still is – intended to benefit public schools, colleges and universities in the Golden State. Tickets went on sale in 1985, and since then the California Lottery has raised more than $26.6 billion for education.

In the past, 37 percent of all lottery revenues were allocated for education and operating expenses were capped at 16 percent. The California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 142 in April 2010, which fundamentally changed how the Lottery operated. Now, 87 percent of California Lottery sales must be returned to the public either as prizes or as contributions to educational initiatives.

Rules

You need to be at least 18 years old in order to play California Lottery games. Prizes worth more than $599 are reported to the IRS for tax purposes, but the state of California itself won’t levy any taxes on your winnings.

All lottery prizes in California must be pari-mutuel, meaning that they are based on the number of tickets sold in each draw and how many winners there are in each prize tier. As a result, the Power Play option is not available when buying Powerball tickets in the Golden State.

A run down of the California Lottery games, their drawing times, claiming Californian lottery prizes and the CA lotto rules, along with links to game details and results ]]>