The Powerball winning numbers are almost here, and there’s a good chance that America has a new billionaire within just a few hours.
The winning numbers for the $1.5 billion (and growing) jackpot will be at 10:59 p.m. on Saturday (check back for an update as soon as the numbers are picked).
[UPDATE: The winning Powerball numbers are 8-27-34-4-19 Powerball: 10]
The lucky winner or winners will share the largest single jackpot of any lottery of all time. By last weekend, the prize already topped the $656 million Mega Millions prize from March 30, 2012. And when Saturday’s Powerball winning numbers found no winner, the already record $948 million jackpot crossed into ten digits for the first time in American lottery history.
This unprecedented prize has led to a bonanza of buyers, with a good chance that half a billion dollars worth of tickets will be sold in the final day alone. Last week there were $400 million worth of tickets sold on Saturday, lottery officials noted, and CNN reported that a total of $2.26 billion in tickets have been sold since the last jackpot was awarded in November.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 12, 2016
— Local 12/WKRC-TV (@Local12) January 12, 2016
The winner after Wednesday’s winning Powerball numbers will actually end up getting about $590 million in a lump sum, if that is what they end up picking. And while nearly all jackpot winners do end up taking the lump sum, Josh Barro of the New York Times advised that the annuity is actually a much better choice.
“First, while people associate the term “annuity” with payment streams that end when you die, the Powerball prize is actually what actuaries call an annuity certain: a stream of annual payments, every year from now until 2045, regardless of what happens to you. If you die before 2045, the future payments become part of your estate, like any other asset.”
“Second, there are big tax advantages to the annuity. The main one is that taking the annuity is basically like letting the government hold onto part of your prize for a while and invest it for you — and the government does not pay tax on investment income. Of course, once you get the annuity checks, you’ll have to pay income tax on them. But if you take the lump-sum cash prize, you’ll pay tax twice: on the prize when you win it, and on the income you get by investing it.”
There has now been a Powerball losing streak dating back to November 4, but experts say there will almost certainly be a winner after Wednesday’s Powerball winning numbers. Lottery officials said about 75 percent of all winning combinations were picked on Saturday, and Walt Hickey of FiveThirtyEight said that it’s even higher this time.
He estimated that about 1.008 billion tickets will be sold for Wednesday’s jackpot, and with somewhere north of 500 million possible combinations that means about a 97 percent chance of a winner on Wednesday.
The Powerball lottery is sold in 44 states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While the lottery itself does not restrict winners to these states, and winners can come from any state or even out of the country, it is not exactly legal to buy Powerball tickets online. So anyone outside of these 44 states wants a ticket, they will have to drive over to a neighboring state and buy one.
While it’s almost certain that someone will win after Wednesday’s Powerball winning numbers, unfortunately the odds are that it won’t be you. The odds of winning are 1 in 292 million, with the Powerball changing the rules back in October 2015 to make it harder to win, and subsequently making the jackpots get even bigger.
[AP Photo/Orlin Wagner]