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Can a tourist win Mega Millions?

The Mega Millions lottery is one of the biggest multi-state lottery games in the United States. It offers jackpots starting at $40 million, with the potential to climb into the hundreds of millions or even over $1 billion if there is a prolonged run without a jackpot winner. With such enormous prizes up for grabs, it’s no wonder that people wonder if even a tourist visiting the US could win Mega Millions.

In short, the answer is yes – there is nothing stopping a tourist from purchasing Mega Millions tickets and potentially hitting the jackpot. However, there are some important rules and logistics to understand regarding lottery play as a tourist in the US. We’ll break down everything you need to know about playing Mega Millions as a tourist in this article.

Can tourists legally play Mega Millions?

The first question that often comes up is whether tourists can even legally purchase lottery tickets in the United States. The answer is yes – there are no citizenship or residency requirements to buy lottery tickets in the US.

Mega Millions can be played in 45 states plus Washington DC and the US Virgin Islands. As long as you are visiting one of those participating jurisdictions, you can walk into any authorized lottery retailer and purchase Mega Millions tickets.

When buying a ticket, you will need to show an acceptable form of identification. A passport or photo ID from your home country should suffice. As long as you meet the minimum age requirement (18 in most states), you will be allowed to buy lottery tickets.

So in summary, as long as you are physically present in a participating Mega Millions state or jurisdiction, you can legally buy tickets as a tourist.

Purchasing Mega Millions tickets

If you’ve confirmed that you can legally play Mega Millions as a tourist, the next step is knowing how and where to actually purchase tickets.

Mega Millions tickets can be purchased at over 50,000 authorized retailers across the participating states and jurisdictions. These include convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. If a retailer sells lottery tickets, they will likely sell Mega Millions too.

To purchase a ticket, you simply need to walk up to the counter and ask for a Mega Millions ticket. You can either have the retailer randomly generate (quick pick) numbers for you, or pick your own numbers. Each Mega Millions ticket costs $2.

When choosing your own numbers, you pick 5 main numbers between 1-70, and then 1 Mega Ball number between 1-25. For randomly generated tickets, the retailer terminal will automatically spit out a ticket with computer-selected numbers.

You can buy multiple tickets in one transaction to increase your chances of winning. Just tell the retailer how many Mega Millions tickets you want to purchase.

Payment is usually by cash, though some retailers may accept credit cards and debit cards too. Once you’ve paid for your ticket(s), good luck!

How do you claim a Mega Millions prize as a tourist?

Alright, let’s say you defied the odds and actually won a Mega Millions prize as a tourist. First of all, congratulations! Now let’s talk about how to claim your windfall…

If you win a smaller prize, like $10,000 or even $1 million, the process is straightforward:

1. Sign the back of your winning ticket. This helps establish ownership.

2. Take the signed ticket to a Mega Millions claims center in the state where you purchased it. They will validate the win and provide instructions on claiming your prize.

3. For smaller prizes, you may be able to collect your winnings immediately from the claims center. For larger amounts, they may direct you to a regional lottery office to complete claim paperwork.

4. You will need to provide photo ID and proof of your SSN or TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number). As a foreigner, you can easily obtain a TIN by applying through the IRS.

5. Taxes will be withheld from your winnings. As a non-resident, you will be taxed at a 30% rate, instead of the highest personal income tax rate.

If you are lucky enough to hit the Mega Millions jackpot, things get more complicated:

1. First, sign the back of your winning ticket and store it in a safe place.

2. Hire a reputable lottery lawyer and financial advisor to assist you with the claim. This is recommended for any jackpot win.

3. Proceed to lottery headquarters in the state where you purchased the ticket to have your win validated.

4. The claim process for Mega Millions jackpots can take weeks or even months to complete due to legal and financial arrangements that must be made. You may need to stick around or keep traveling back to finally collect the full lump sum payment.

5. Jackpot wins are subject to the highest income tax bracket – currently 37% federally for U.S. residents. As a foreigner, you may actually fare better tax-wise by not establishing official U.S. residency and stay classified as a non-resident alien. Consult with tax experts to plan accordingly.

The main hurdle to overcome is having the flexibility to keep returning to the U.S. to complete the jackpot claim process. But as long as you follow the steps, even tourists can collect a Mega Millions jackpot.

Odds of winning as a tourist

Winning any Mega Millions prize as a tourist is an incredible long shot. After all, the odds of matching all 5 main numbers plus the Mega Ball to hit the jackpot are about 1 in 302.6 million. Even for a $1 million prize, the odds are still 1 in over 12 million. But while improbable, it’s certainly not impossible for visitors to strike it rich.

Here is a breakdown of the odds for different prize tiers:

Prize Odds of Winning
Match 5 + Mega Ball (Jackpot) 1 in 302,575,350
Match 5 1 in 12,607,306
Match 4 + Mega Ball 1 in 931,001
Match 4 1 in 38,792
Match 3 + Mega Ball 1 in 14,547
Match 3 1 in 606
Match 2 + Mega Ball 1 in 693
Match 1 + Mega Ball 1 in 89
Match Mega Ball 1 in 37

For perspective, you are over 300 times more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than to hit the Mega Millions jackpot with a single ticket. But that doesn’t stop tourists from playing.

The few dollars spent on Mega Millions tickets can provide some fun and excitement as you imagine what you could do with a multi-million dollar windfall. And you never know – you could get extremely lucky and return home with a nice jackpot or other major prize.

Biggest tourist lottery wins

Here are some of the largest known lottery prizes won by tourists and other visitors to the United States:

– $31 million jackpot – Won by a truck driver from Canada who purchased a Powerball ticket while traveling through the U.S for work.

– $5.9 million jackpot – Won by a woman from the Philippines who claimed a Florida lottery jackpot with a ticket she purchased while visiting her daughters.

– $1 million – Won by a visitor from Australia who bought a winning scratch-off ticket at a gas station in California.

– $564.1 million Powerball jackpot – A woman from Germany won this huge prize with a ticket bought while vacationing in Florida.

– $487 million Powerball jackpot – Reportedly claimed by a Brazilian couple who randomly bought a ticket while on an American trip. Lottery officials were unable to confirm.

– $1 million Mega Millions prize – An army officer from India purchased the lucky ticket when traveling through San Francisco.

As you can see, tourists have actually won huge lottery prizes in the past, even jackpots nearing $1 billion. So you really do have a shot, albeit a very small chance, at a big score.

Taxes for tourists on lottery wins

As mentioned earlier, tourists who are lucky enough to win the lottery in the United States do have to pay taxes on their winnings. But how much exactly?

For U.S. citizens and permanent residents, lottery winnings are taxed like regular income. So for a huge prize, the federal tax rate can climb to as high as 37%. Many states also tax lottery winnings between 5-8% on top of that.

For non-U.S. citizens and foreign tourists, however, the tax rates on lottery winnings are different:

– Federal taxes: 30% flat federal tax rate applies for any visiting non-resident aliens.

– State taxes: None, as non-residents don’t have to pay state income taxes. Only exception is if they are from one of the few states that share lottery jackpots like California and Pennsylvania.

– Home country taxes: Depends on the specific tax laws, but some countries like Canada do not tax lottery winnings earned abroad. Others like the U.K. enforce tax rates on worldwide income.

So taxes can really eat into a lottery prize. But visiting non-residents do get preferable tax treatment compared to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The 30% federal flat rate is lower than the top 37% bracket. And being exempt from state taxes is a nice perk.

A reputable tax advisor can provide guidance on minimizing taxes and handling compliance for a tourist’s lottery win.

Should tourists buy lottery tickets?

Given the extremely long odds of winning, is it worth it for tourists to spend money on U.S. lottery tickets versus other entertainment and vacation expenses?

Here are some pros and cons to weigh:


– Provides excitement and imagining “what if” you won big

– Chance at life-changing winnings

– Ticket prices are low (Mega Millions is $2 per play)

– Prizes exempt from state taxes for tourists

– Winnings taken home are still worth significantly more than the ticket cost

– Allows you to experience and participate in American lottery culture


– Infinitesimal odds of winning jackpot or other major prize

– To win, you would need to stay in country longer or keep returning to claim prize

– May have to pay taxes in home country on winnings

– Money likely better spent on other fun experiences than lottery tickets

– Time visiting retailers to buy tickets takes away from other sightseeing

As you can see, there are reasonable arguments on both sides. For many tourists, playing the lottery while in America is seen as a fun diversion and a chance to dream big. If you have some extra cash, buying a few tickets could provide some extra excitement to your trip. Just don’t go overboard and spend all your money on lottery tickets. Playing responsibly for entertainment can make for a more memorable vacation experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions tourists may have about playing Mega Millions:

Can I buy tickets online or through a mobile app as a tourist?

Unfortunately, you cannot purchase Mega Millions tickets online or through mobile apps across state lines as a tourist. State lottery laws require you to be a resident and physically located in the state to play online. To buy tickets as a visitor, you need to go to an authorized lottery retailer in person.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to play Mega Millions?

Nope, U.S. citizenship is not required. You just need to be physically present in a participating Mega Millions jurisdiction when purchasing tickets. Passport or other valid ID is accepted.

Can I buy tickets and claim prizes anonymously as a foreigner?

For valid legal reasons, full identification and disclosures are required to play and claim lottery prizes over $600. Anonymity is generally not allowed.

How long do I have to claim a winning Mega Millions ticket?

In most states you have 180 or 365 days from the drawing date to claim your prize. Be sure to check expiration dates for the state where you bought your ticket.

Do I need a Social Security Number to claim lottery prizes?

If you don’t have a SSN, you can provide a Taxpayer Identification Number from IRS Form W-7 instead. This allows non-residents to claim lottery wins.

Are lottery winnings taxed in my home country?

Depends on your home country. Some do not tax foreign gambling/lottery winnings. Check your local tax laws or consult an advisor about any declaration requirements.

Can I legally bring lottery winnings back to my country?

In most cases, yes you can transfer or carry lottery winnings back to your home country and declare them legally. But some countries do restrict large cash transfers across borders. Check your customs regulations.


While the odds seem hopelessly stacked against tourists winning Mega Millions jackpots, some visitors do occasionally beat the long odds and take home life-changing sums of money. If played responsibly for entertainment, buying lottery tickets can make for wonderful memories, and possibly very lucrative stories for some lucky foreigners traveling through participating U.S. states.

Visitors from other countries are certainly eligible to purchase Mega Millions tickets at thousands of authorized retailers across the U.S. Winnings are subject to a 30% federal tax withholding rate for foreign tourists, which is lower than U.S. resident rates.

If you match the numbers for a jackpot or other major prize while visiting America, be prepared for a lengthy claims process that may require extending or repeating your visit to finalize. But with proper planning, even tourists can hit it big and collect Mega Millions prizes to bring back home or enjoy in the United States.

So for travelers passing through Mega Millions states, don’t be shy about living the American dream and taking a shot at instant millions. Who knows, you could go back to your home country with an experience and bank account balance you’ll remember for the rest of your life!