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What is the meaning of lotto in American English?

Lotto is a popular game of chance played in many countries around the world, including the United States. It involves picking numbers and matching them to randomly drawn numbers in order to win a jackpot or other prizes. The word “lotto” comes from the Italian word “lotto” meaning fate, destiny, or lottery. In American English, lotto typically refers to a numbers game like Powerball or Mega Millions.

History of Lotto in America

Lotteries have a long history in America dating back to the colonial era. Early lotteries were used to help fund the colonial infrastructure including roads, libraries, churches, colleges, canals, and bridges. Some of the oldest American universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were funded by lottery proceeds.

The first recorded lotto in America was held in 1612 by King James I to aid the Virginia Company of London in its colonization efforts in Jamestown, Virginia. It offered 500-pound prizes and was promoted with the slogan “A Lotterie for Virginia.”

In 1744, the colony of Rhode Island held a lottery to build a bridge over the Weybossett River in Providence. Considered the start of modern lotteries in America, it offered 3,357 tickets priced from a few shillings to 2 pounds. Winners received silver and gold medals according to the price paid for the ticket.

After the American Revolution, lotteries became popular methods for states to raise money for major projects. New York sold lottery tickets to finance the Erie Canal. The District of Columbia held a lottery to fund major remodeling in the capital. Many colleges used lotteries to build dormitories and libraries.

The Louisiana Lottery, started in 1868, was particularly notorious. It was riddled with corruption and bribery scandals before being abolished in 1895. This led to a growing backlash against lotteries, which were prohibited in many states in the early 20th century.

In 1964, New Hampshire became the first state to start a modern lottery. It was seen as a voluntary tax that avoided the need to create new taxes. Other states soon followed with lotteries of their own. Today, lotteries are permitted in most states and are a major source of funding for government programs and services.

Common Lotto Games in America

There are several popular lotto games played across the United States:


Powerball is coordinated by the Multi-State Lottery Association and is available in 45 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Players pick 5 numbers from 1-69 and one Powerball number from 1-26. Powerball holds drawings twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. Jackpots start at $40 million and roll over if there is no winner. Powerball has created some of the biggest lottery jackpots in history, including a world record $1.586 billion prize shared by 3 tickets in 2016.

Mega Millions

Mega Millions is offered in 45 states along with Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Players select 5 numbers from 1-70 and one Mega Ball number from 1-25. Drawings are held Tuesday and Friday nights. The starting jackpot is $40 million with rollovers after each drawing without a winner. In 2018, Mega Millions set a new record with a $1.537 billion jackpot won by a single ticket in South Carolina.

SuperLotto Plus

SuperLotto Plus is a popular lotto game exclusive to California. Players choose 5 numbers from 1-47 and one Mega number from 1-27. The starting jackpot is $7 million and drawings take place on Wednesday and Saturday. In November 2012, two tickets split a record $23 million SuperLotto Plus jackpot.

Lucky for Life

Lucky for Life is currently available in 26 states and Washington D.C. It is unique in offering a guaranteed “Lucky for Life” prize along with a jackpot. Players pick 5 numbers from 1-48 and one Lucky Ball from 1-18. The top prize pays $1,000 per day for life, while the second prize is $25,000 per year for life. The jackpot offers a one-time cash payout starting at $1 million. Drawings occur on Monday and Thursday.


Cash4Life is played in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Indiana, and the District of Columbia. Players choose 5 numbers from 1-60 and one Cash Ball from 1-4. The top prize is $1,000 per day for life. Second prize is $1,000 per week for life. The jackpot starts at $1,000 per day for a year. Drawings take place on Monday and Thursday evenings.

How to Play Lotto in America

Playing lotto games in the United States is easy:

Step 1: Choose a Game

Decide which lotto game you want to play. Popular options include Powerball, Mega Millions, and state-specific games like California’s SuperLotto Plus. Consider the jackpot size, odds of winning, ticket price, and prize payout structure.

Step 2: Select Your Numbers

Each lotto game has its own set of numbered balls to pick from. Mark your desired numbers on an official playslip or lottery ticket. Powerball has 69 white balls and 26 red Powerballs. Mega Millions has 70 white balls and 25 golden Megaballs. You can do quick picks and let the lottery terminal randomly generate numbers for you.

Step 3: Buy Your Ticket

Present your completed playslip or ask for quick pick tickets at authorized lottery retailers such as convenience stores, gas stations, and supermarkets. Many lotteries also allow online and mobile app ticket purchases. Note the purchase date, drawing date, and your numbers. Tickets are bearer instruments so sign the back for security.

Step 4: Check the Results

Tune in to local media outlets or lottery websites to find out the latest winning numbers, jackpot amounts, and number of winners. If you win, promptly sign your ticket and keep it very safe until ready to claim your prize. Jackpots usually have to be claimed within 60-180 days.

Step 5: Collect Your Winnings

Depending on the amount, claim your prize at a lottery office or authorized retailer. You’ll need to show valid ID and your winning ticket to collect. Remember that taxes apply to lottery winnings. Congratulations on your big payday!

Odds of Winning Lotto Games

Lotto games offer huge jackpots but the odds of winning are extremely long. The more numbers picked, the lower your chances of matching them all to the draw results. Modern lotteries use sophisticated ball machines and random number generators to ensure fair results. Here are the odds breakdowns for popular lotto games:

Game Odds of Winning Jackpot
Powerball 1 in 292,201,338
Mega Millions 1 in 302,575,350
SuperLotto Plus 1 in 41,416,353

As seen, your chance at the jackpot is incredibly small. However, you can still win smaller prizes at better odds. For example, your odds of matching just the Powerball for a $4 prize are a much more reasonable 1 in 38.32. Lotteries rely on infrequent giant jackpots to create widespread public interest.

Biggest Lotto Jackpots in History

Lotto mania sweeps the country whenever mammoth jackpots are up for grabs. Here are some of the biggest lottery prizes ever awarded in the United States:

Amount Game Date
$1.586 billion Powerball January 13, 2016
$1.537 billion Mega Millions October 23, 2018
$768.4 million Powerball March 27, 2019
$758.7 million Powerball August 23, 2017
$656 million Mega Millions March 30, 2012

As seen, Powerball and Mega Millions have delivered some truly astronomical prizes in recent years. Lottery fever peaks when the jackpots reach stratospheric levels.

Record Lotto Winners

Here are some notable winners of massive lottery jackpots:

The Three Amigos

In 2016, the world record $1.586 Powerball jackpot was split between 3 tickets in California, Florida, and Tennessee. The winners nicknames themselves the “Three Amigos.” Each lucky ticket was quick pick. They chose to take the lump sum cash option. After taxes, each amigo walked away with over $327 million.

Mavis Wanczyk

In 2017, Mavis Wanczyk, a hospital worker from Massachusetts, won a $758.7 million Powerball prize, the largest ever won by a single ticket. She opted for the lump sum payout of $480.5 million, which came to $336 million after taxes. Wanczyk purchased her lucky quick pick ticket from a Chicopee store.

The Mersey Girls

A UK lottery syndicate known as the Mersey Girls won a $68 million jackpot in the National Lottery in 2011. The 6 cleaning women from Liverpool had played together for years pooling their money. They chose to collect their prize in annual installments and reportedly still went to work everyday despite becoming millionaires.

Gloria MacKenzie

At age 84, Gloria MacKenzie of Zephyrhills, Florida claimed a $590.5 million Powerball jackpot in 2013. She purchased the quick pick ticket at a Publix supermarket. After federal taxes, Mackenzie took home around $278 million. She split her winnings with her son, donating much of it to charity and their church.

Common Lotto Winners’ Mistakes

Here are some mistakes lottery winners often make that you’ll want to avoid:

Not Signing the Ticket

One of the biggest mistakes is failing to sign your lottery ticket after purchase and again after validation. An unsigned ticket is essentially a bearer instrument that can be claimed by anyone. Signing provides documentation that you are the rightful owner.

Going Public Too Soon

It may be tempting to immediately share your big win. However, going public too quickly before all security measures are in place puts you at risk of scams, harassment, and even lawsuits. Keep a low profile until you consult professionals.

Taking the Annuity

While lottery annuities pay out over several decades, the lump sum is generally the better option. You avoid investment risks and can diversify your money across different vehicles. Just be sure to set aside enough for taxes before spending anything.

Blowing It All

Without professional guidance, many winners make huge impulse buys or simply spend the entire windfall in a short time. This leaves nothing to generate future investment income. Carefully invest the lion’s share and live modestly off the interest.

Sharing Too Much

Once word gets out, countless people will ask you for money including strangers with hard luck stories. Be very selective if gifting money. Set limits and reject sob stories. Don’t put your winnings at risk with unvetted investments either.

Taxes on Lotto Winnings

Lottery jackpots may be advertised as mind-boggling amounts. However, winners take home far less after federal and state taxes gobble up a significant cut. Exact tax rates vary between states. Here’s how lottery taxes generally work:

Federal Lottery Taxes

For U.S. citizens and resident aliens, federal taxes are charged at the highest income tax bracket – currently 37% on amounts over $539,900. State taxes then apply on top of the federal tax. Non-resident aliens face a flat 30% federal tax on the full amount.

State Lottery Taxes

State taxes typically range from 2.9% to 8.82%. Some states like Florida, Texas, Washington, South Dakota, Wyoming and Tennessee do not tax lottery winnings. The remainder tax lottery prizes like regular income. State taxes apply regardless of whether you reside there.

Tax Withholding

Most lottery operators automatically withhold 24% in federal taxes before paying out cash jackpots. However, this often does not satisfy the actual tax amount owed. Winners must pay any shortfall by the tax deadline for the year they claimed prizes.

Estimating Lottery Taxes

The after-tax amount can be roughly estimated by multiplying the jackpot by 0.65 for lump sum payouts. For example, the after-tax amount on a $100 million jackpot would be approximately $65 million. Annuities spread the taxes over each installment received.


With gigantic jackpots frequently in the hundreds of millions, lotto games like Powerball and Mega Millions are immensely popular in America. While the odds of hitting the jackpot are incredibly long, smaller prizes are more attainable. Lotteries provide entertainment and excitement while raising billions for government programs. Just be sure to safeguard your identity if you win, work with financial experts, keep a low profile, and plan for hefty tax bills. With the right moves, your lotto winnings can set you up for life.