Skip to Content

Who won the biggest lottery recently?

Winning the lottery is a dream for many people. The chance to win millions of dollars in an instant is an alluring prospect. But actually hitting the jackpot is exceedingly rare. Only a tiny fraction of lottery players ever win a major prize. However, when someone does hit it big, it makes headlines across the country. So who won the biggest lottery jackpot recently?

The Biggest Lottery Winners in Recent Years

To find the biggest recent lottery winners, we have to look at the top jackpots awarded over the past few years. Lottery jackpots keep getting bigger as more players join in on the games, boosting the potential top prizes. Here are some of the largest lottery jackpots awarded in recent times:

Winner Lottery Year Jackpot
Anonymous Mega Millions 2018 $1.537 billion
Powerball lottery 2016 $1.586 billion
Anonymous Mega Millions 2021 $1.05 billion
Mavis Wanczyk Powerball 2017 $758.7 million

As you can see, the largest jackpots have all been over $1 billion. Let’s take a closer look at these record-setting lottery wins.

The Biggest Lottery Jackpot – $1.586 Billion Powerball in 2016

The largest lottery jackpot in history was a $1.586 billion Powerball drawing in January 2016. The jackpot rolled over multiple times without a winner, allowing the prize pool to reach record levels. The massive jackpot sparked a surge in ticket sales across the country.

The winning ticket for the billion dollar jackpot was sold in California, Florida, and Tennessee. Rather than going to a single winner, the prize was split between three ticket holders who matched all five white balls and the red Powerball. Each of the three winners could choose between a lump sum payment of $327.8 million or the full $528.8 million prize paid out over 29 years.

The winners remained anonymous upon claiming their prizes, only coming forward to lottery officials. Only basic details were revealed, such as the California winner being a nurse. The Florida winner was identified as a 20-year-old man. And the Tennessee winner was a 34-year-old woman. But their names were not officially announced publicly.

Splitting the jackpot three ways reduced the value for each winner. But even 1/3 of a billion dollars is life changing. The Powerball jackpot win was truly historic, and remains the largest on record.

Mega Millions Jackpots Hit Over $1 Billion Twice

Since the record Powerball jackpot, the Mega Millions lottery has also topped $1 billion twice. In October 2018, a ticket sold in South Carolina won a $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot.

The winner chose to remain anonymous and take a one-time cash payout of $877,784,124. It was the largest jackpot payout to a single ticket in U.S. history. However, because the prize was before taxes, the final take home amount was estimated around $495 million.

Then in January 2021, the Mega Millions jackpot rolled over to an estimated $1.05 billion. A four-person lottery club in Michigan won the prize, calling themselves the Wolverine FLL Club. The jackpot winners were able to skip the usual press conference and remain out of the public eye by claiming their prize through a limited liability company.

Each member of the Wolverine FLL Club got around $557 million after taxes. They chose the lump sum cash option rather than the full $1.05 billion paid over 29 years.

A Near Billion Dollar Powerball Jackpot

In addition to the record $1.586 billion Powerball jackpot, there was another near-billion dollar Powerball drawing a couple years later in August 2017. The jackpot rolled to $758.7 million, and was hit by a single ticket sold in Massachusetts.

The winner was Mavis Wanczyk, a 53-year-old hospital worker from the small town of Chicopee, Massachusetts. Opting for the cash payout, her lump sum prize amounted to $480.5 million before taxes. After state and federal taxes, her final take home prize was around $336 million.

Wanczyk appeared at a press conference to claim her record Powerball prize, becoming the first American lottery winner to claim such a large jackpot publicly. She made headlines not just for the size of her win, but for her pledge to donate a portion of her prize to charity and her community.

Other Notable Big Lottery Winners

In addition to the largest jackpots exceeding $1 billion, there have been many other lottery winners who took home massive riches:

  • A 2014 Powerball jackpot worth $590.5 million was split by a winner in Florida and a winner in North Carolina.
  • A California SuperLotto Plus ticket won a $543 million jackpot in 2018.
  • A Wisconsin player won a $768.4 million Powerball prize in 2019.
  • A 2019 Mega Millions jackpot of $1.54 billion had two winners – one in South Carolina and one in Florida.
  • A single Pennsylvania ticket won a $456 million Powerball jackpot in 2018.

These winners all instantly became multi-hundred-millionaires with their lottery luck. The rest of us can only dream of hitting a jackpot like that someday.

Odds of Winning the Lottery

As incredible as these jackpot wins are, the reality is the odds of winning the lottery are extremely long. Powerball has odds of 1 in 292 million to match all six numbers. Mega Millions is even lower with odds of 1 in 302 million. Essentially you are much more likely to be struck by lightning than to hit the jackpot.

However, smaller secondary prizes have better odds. A player’s chance of winning any prize, including smaller $1 million or $10,000 prizes, is around 1 in 25 for Mega Millions and 1 in 24 for Powerball. But to take home one of those massive 9-figure jackpots requires immense luck.

Some people spend huge amounts of money on lottery tickets trying to boost their slim chances. But even buying 100 tickets still results in very low odds. In the end, winning the lottery is statistically unlikely for any single player.

Tips for Lottery Winners

Hitting the jackpot can be both exhilarating and daunting. Major lottery winners often benefit from financial advice to help navigate their sudden influx of money. Here are some useful tips for lottery jackpot winners:

  • Remain anonymous – If allowed in your state, you may be able to claim winnings anonymously or via a trust to maintain privacy.
  • Assemble a legal/financial team – Work with experienced professionals like lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors.
  • Pay off debts – Eliminate any high interest credit cards or loans.
  • Set aside for taxes – Remember jackpot winnings are subject to heavy income tax.
  • Create a long-term investment plan – Invest wisely with guidance from financial experts.
  • Live below your means – Avoid major lifestyle inflation that could drain your prize money quickly.
  • Give back – Consider donating some of your winnings to a cause important to you.

The keys are to surround yourself with knowledgeable professionals, eliminate big debts, set money aside for taxes, create a smart investment strategy for the future, and avoid unnecessary splurges that could waste your limited prize funds.

Famous Lottery Winners

There are a number of past lottery winners who gained some degree of fame or notoriety after scoring massive jackpots:

  • Jack Whittaker – West Virginia man won $315 million Powerball in 2002. His winnings and legal/personal troubles made headlines.
  • Evelyn Adams – Won the New Jersey lottery twice 1985 and 1986. Lost millions through gambling.
  • Andrew “Jack” Whittaker Jr. – Won $314 million Powerball jackpot in West Virginia in 2002.
  • William Post – Won $16.2 million Pennsylvania lottery in 1988. Spent much of it and died broke.
  • Ronnie Music Jr. – Georgia man won $3 million in 2015. Used money to create a non-profit organization.

Some big winners became famous for positive reasons like charitable works, while others gained attention for scandals, legal issues, or losing their fortunes.

Biggest Unclaimed Lottery Jackpots

In rare cases, massive lottery jackpots can actually go unclaimed if the winner fails to come forward during the redemption period:

  • $77 million – A Georgia Fantasy 5 jackpot expired in 2011 with no one stepping up.
  • $63 million – A 2015 California SuperLotto Plus jackpot went unredeemed.
  • $46 million – A 2003 SuperLotto Plus jackpot in California had no takers.
  • $68 million – An Iowa Powerball prize expired in 2011 despite the winning ticket being sold.

Various reasons can cause unclaimed prizes, from lost tickets to unaware winners failing to check numbers. When a jackpot goes unclaimed, the money is returned to the state to be used for various public causes.

State Lotteries with the Most Winners

Some states seem luckier than others when it comes to residents hitting it big in the lottery. The states with the most jackpot winners are:

  • Indiana – Has had over 30 jackpot winners including record Powerball and Mega Millions wins.
  • Missouri – Multiple major inter-state jackpot winners plus dozens of in-state winners.
  • Minnesota – Many big winners including 2 major Powerball jackpots over $200 million.
  • Kentucky – Home of multiple Powerball and Mega Millions winners over $100 million.
  • West Virginia – Has had a disproportionate number of jackpot winners for its small population.

The luckiest states seem concentrated in the Midwest and South. The concentration of winners likely reflects heavier lottery participation in certain regions.

The Luckiest Lottery Stores

Along with lucky states, there are also luckiest lottery retailers that have sold an unusually high number of winning tickets. Some of the luckiest lottery outlets include:

  • Indiana Super Test – Convenience store that sold a $543 million Mega Millions ticket in 2018.
  • Moto Mart – Iowa store that sold 2 major jackpot tickets over a decade apart.
  • Marietta Liquor & Deli – Wisconsin retailer that sold a $768.4 million Powerball winner in 2019.
  • 7-Eleven – Chicopee, MA store that sold the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot.
  • Weiler’s Market – Pennsylvania grocer linked to big Powerball winners in 2006 and 2011.

For unknown reasons, certain stores seem to sell far more major winning tickets than average. Superstitions around lucky lottery locations continue to drive customers to those businesses.


Winning a 9-figure lottery jackpot can be a life-changing event. Though extremely rare, ticketholders do occasionally match the right numbers against incredible odds to take home fortunes.

The largest jackpots tend to be hundreds of millions in prizes from national lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions. Split between multiple winners, the cash value can still amount to over $100 million per person after taxes.

Very few people actually beat the long odds to win huge lottery jackpots. But when someone does hit it big, it becomes national news. Dreaming about instantly becoming a multi-millionaire will continue driving people to play the lottery, even if their chances of winning are infinitesimally small. The lure of life-changing riches will keep the lottery popular, and keep people hoping for their own big jackpot win someday.