Skip to Content

How many people have become billionaires from the lottery?

The lottery is a game of chance that offers enormous jackpot prizes to lucky winners. With jackpots frequently surpassing hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s natural to wonder if winning the lottery has ever propelled someone into billionaire status.

Becoming a billionaire solely from lottery winnings is extremely rare. While there are over 2,700 billionaires worldwide today, only a very small handful of lottery winners have ever reached billionaire status from a single ticket.

That’s because, despite the eye-popping headlines about 9-figure jackpots, the actual payouts to winners are much lower. Lotteries take a hefty cut of ticket sales, and jackpots are spread over annual installments that are further reduced by taxes. Nevertheless, a few fortunate lottery players have managed to parlay their winnings into billionaire fortunes.

Mega Millions and Powerball Jackpots

In the United States, the two biggest national lottery games are Mega Millions and Powerball. They regularly have jackpots exceeding $500 million, sometimes even over $1 billion.

The largest Mega Millions jackpot ever was $1.537 billion in 2018, while the record Powerball jackpot was $1.586 billion in 2016. Winners of those enormous prizes would receive annual installments stretching over three decades, adding up to about $750 million in actual cash payouts after taxes.

That’s a life-changing amount of money, but not enough to attain billionaire status. Even when multiple winners split a huge jackpot, their individual shares are below the billion-dollar mark. However, a few crafty winners have managed to spin their lottery winnings into 10-figure fortunes.

Joan Ginther – Net Worth $1.3 Billion

Joan Ginther is the biggest lottery winner to become a billionaire purely from playing the lottery. Ginther, a former math professor from Texas, won an astounding four multi-million dollar jackpots between 1993 and 2010 from scratch-off lottery games in Texas.

Her wins included:

  • $5.4 million in 1993
  • $2 million in 2006
  • $3 million in 2008
  • $10 million in 2010

Ginther parlayed her $20.4 million in lottery winnings into a personal fortune of over $1 billion. She made shrewd investments in stocks and real estate to turn her winnings into billions.

Francois Navarre – Net Worth $1 Billion

In 1969, Frenchman Francois Navarre won the lottery after buying a ticket on a whim. Navarre took home 1 million francs, equivalent to about $200,000 at the time. He used his winnings to launch a car rental and real estate business.

Within a few decades, Navarre had built his company into a multibillion dollar enterprise, becoming a billionaire before passing away in 1983.

Evelyn Adams – Won The Lottery Twice

New Jersey native Evelyn Adams won the New Jersey lottery twice, in 1985 and 1986, collecting total winnings of $5.4 million. However, Adams did not achieve billionaire status from her lottery luck.

Instead, she spent lavishly and quickly blew through her entire fortune. By 2001, Adams had nothing left from her multi-million dollar prizes. She currently resides in a trailer park in New Jersey.

Limits on Lottery Winnings

The cases of billionaires like Joan Ginther and Francois Navarre are exceptionally rare. In most countries, lotteries have limits and regulations that make becoming a billionaire purely from winning the lottery almost impossible.

For one, most lotteries enforce a cap on jackpot amounts, preventing the astronomical 10 and 11 figure prizes seen in games like Powerball. The European EuroMillions game, for example, caps jackpots at €200 million. Canada’s Lotto Max caps at CA$70 million.

Lotteries also limit how much a single player can win on a ticket. For instance, the UK National Lottery only allows winners to claim up to £400,000 on a single ticket. Winning tickets over that amount are invalidated.

These caps and limitations severely restrict how much a single player can amass solely from lottery winnings.

Taxes Eat Up Winnings

Taxes also take a huge bite out of lottery jackpots, especially in the U.S. American lottery winnings are subject to both federal and state income taxes. Combined rates can be as high as 50% on prize money.

So after taxes, a headline $1 billion jackpot turns into only around $500 million. Spread over 30 annual installments, that’s just $16 million per year in actual payouts. Still life changing money for most, but extremely difficult to parlay into billionaire status.

Few People Win Multiple Large Prizes

Winning even one lottery jackpot is exceedingly rare. Hitting multiple jackpots, like Joan Ginther did, is near impossible odds. For context, your odds of winning just one Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292 million. For MegaMillions, it’s 1 in 302 million. With odds like that, duplicated wins are astronomical.

While winning one huge prize can set you up nicely, it takes multiple huge wins to attain billionaire status. And very few players ever win big more than once.

Winners Often Mismanage Their Money

Coming into sudden money is disastrous for many lottery winners. Without proper financial knowledge, winners frequently make poor investment decisions or spend excessively.

A 2001 study in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making found lottery winners save just 16 cents of every dollar won. Many winners actually go bankrupt within just a few years of their windfall.

So even winning hundreds of millions in the lottery is no guarantee of becoming a billionaire. Proper money management is critical.

Billionaire Status Takes Business Savvy

For lottery winners to reach the billion dollar mark, it also takes business savvy. Joan Ginther was able to turn her lottery winnings into over a billion dollars because she made smart investments in stocks and real estate.

Francois Navarre used his modest $200k prize to launch an incredibly successful car rental and real estate business. Their business acumen was key in multiplying their lottery money.

Simply winning millions in the lottery does not automatically make someone a skilled investor or business person. Turning lottery money into billions takes financial expertise that few possess.


In summary, becoming a billionaire purely from lottery winnings is exceedingly rare due to:

  • Caps and limits on lottery jackpots and individual payouts
  • High taxes eating up large portions of prizes
  • Astronomical odds of winning multiple major jackpots
  • Tendency for winners to mismanage sudden wealth
  • Business savvy needed to turn winnings into billions

While the lottery has certainly produced enormous winners, only a handful like Joan Ginther and Francois Navarre have ever reached billionaire status on lottery winnings alone. For almost every other winner, while the prize money is life-changing, becoming a billionaire remains out of reach.

List of Lottery Winners and Their Prize Money

Winner Lottery Year Prize
Joan Ginther Texas Lotto 1993 $5.4 million
Joan Ginther Texas Lotto 2006 $2 million
Joan Ginther Texas Lotto 2008 $3 million
Joan Ginther Texas Lotto 2010 $10 million
Francois Navarre French Lottery 1969 1 million francs ($200k)
Evelyn Adams New Jersey Lottery 1985 $5.4 million
Evelyn Adams New Jersey Lottery 1986 $1.4 million

Biggest Powerball Jackpots

Amount Date Winners
$1.586 billion Jan 13, 2016 3
$768.4 million Mar 27, 2019 1
$758.7 million Aug 23, 2017 1
$731.1 million Jan 20, 2021 1
$699.8 million Oct 4, 2021 1

Biggest Mega Millions Jackpots

Amount Date Winners
$1.537 billion Oct 23, 2018 1
$1.050 billion Jan 22, 2021 1
$656 million Mar 30, 2012 3
$648 million Dec 17, 2013 2
$543 million July 24, 2018 1

Tax Rates on Lottery Winnings by State

In addition to federal taxes, lottery winnings in the U.S. are subject to state taxes which vary considerably:

State Tax Rate on Lottery Winnings
Alabama 5%
Alaska None
Arizona 5%
Arkansas 7%
California None
Colorado 4%
Connecticut 6.99%
Delaware None
Florida None
Georgia 6%
Hawaii None
Idaho 6%
Illinois 4.95%
Indiana 3.23%
Iowa 5%
Kansas 5%
Kentucky 5%
Louisiana 5%
Maine 5%
Maryland 8.75%
Massachusetts 5%
Michigan 4.25%
Minnesota 7.25%
Mississippi 5%
Missouri 4%
Montana None
Nebraska 5%
Nevada None
New Hampshire None
New Jersey 8%
New Mexico 6%
New York 8.82%
North Carolina 5.45%
North Dakota 2.9%
Ohio 4%
Oklahoma 4%
Oregon 8%
Pennsylvania 3.07%
Rhode Island 5.99%
South Carolina 7%
South Dakota None
Tennessee None
Texas None
Utah None
Vermont 6%
Virginia 4%
Washington None
West Virginia 6.5%
Wisconsin 7.65%
Wyoming None

Famous Lottery Winners

Here are some other notable lottery winners from history:

  • Jack Whittaker – Won $314 million Powerball jackpot in 2002, at the time the largest single ticket prize ever awarded.
  • Cynthia Stafford – Won $112 million in California in 2007. Used winnings to start nonprofit foundations.
  • Richard Lustig – Won 7 lottery jackpots between 1993 and 2010 totaling over $1 million.
  • EuroMillions Winners – A number of winners from this European lottery have won jackpots over €100 million.
  • Gloria MacKenzie – $590 million Powerball winner in 2013.
  • The Putnam Ave. Family Office – Anonymous winners of a $254 million Powerball jackpot in 2018.

While lottery winners receive massive lump sums, very few throughout history have been able to turn that sudden influx of money into billionaire status. Nevertheless, their stories continue to inspire lottery players to dream big and hope lady luck shines on them next.