Guide to the Most Popular Lotteries in the USA
You can play lotteries from 45 states. Draws include multi-state games with huge jackpots. There are draws in individual states, keno-based games and scratch cards available too.
More recently, many states have introduced online lottery options. Some offer the purchase of Mega Millions and Powerball tickets online. Others go further, with electronic games available to play for real money.
This guide to US lottery games starts by taking a look at how the lottery has moved online in different states. Next up, the lottery options in six individual states are listed, detailing how to play and which draws you can enjoy. You’ll find more on those multi-state draws and taxation questions at the end of this page.
Online lottery gaming hasn’t caught on in the same way as other gambling options have – for a mix of reasons.
The laws surrounding online lottery gaming were unclear for a long time. Many lawmakers believed that online lotteries would contravene both the Wire Act (1961) and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (2006). However, in recent years, the Department of Justice have clarified the laws relating to lottery gaming. First, the Wire Act only prohibits wagers placed on ‘sporting events or contests’. The UIGEA allows for electronic communication of data generated via legal lottery sales.
This means that online lottery games are now clearly under the jurisdiction of state laws. However, up until now, only a limited number of states have taken the opportunity to offer the chance to enter their lotteries online.
Lottery retailers are a big part of the reason that tickets are not widely available online. These lottery sales ensure that many people visit convenience stores or gas stations. They buy other things during these visits – an important part of the convenience store business model. Moving the lottery online has been met by legal challenges from retailers.
In most states, you can check the winning numbers online. You can also take part in 2nd chance draws – and find out how the money raised by the lottery is spent. A small number of states do allow direct purchase of tickets too.
Six states are ahead of the rest when it comes to online lottery opportunities. Below you’ll find information on the lotteries of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia and New Hampshire.
In Michigan, players can enter four different draws by buying Michigan lottery tickets online.
Both the national Powerball and Mega Millions tickets can be purchased online. There are also single state MI draws including the ‘Fantasy 5’ and ‘Lotto 47’ draws.
Buying the tickets online is simple – just hit the ‘Buy Now’ button and you’ll get to choose exactly how you play. The ‘easy pick’ option is the simplest. Here you click to confirm how many tickets you want to buy (for example, when playing the ‘Powerball’, you have instant options of 3, 5 or 10 tickets at the cost of $6, $10 or $20 respectively) and they’ll pick the numbers for you. You can also choose your own numbers. There is a ‘combo my numbers’ option too. This gives you permutations based around your lucky numbers.
Aside from the Powerball and the Mega Millions (which are detailed fully later), here’s how the other online draws work:
Alongside the online options there are also a series of games which you’ll still need to head to a retailer to play – hit the ‘find retailer’ button to show your closest retail outlet.
There are two lottery websites for the Pennsylvania lottery.
In total, there are 11 lottery draws in PA. Of these games, only two can be played online – the Powerball and Mega Millions. All of the other games can be entered by visiting retailers and convenience stores. At the state.pa.us site, you’ll also find a link to download the app. This gives you the draw results and opportunity to buy multi-state draw tickets direct from your phone.
Pennsylvania only lottery draws include pick 2 through 5 draws with an optional wild ball. The biggest PA only draw is called Cash 5. Match 6 is a lotto style game, with other daily games including Treasure Hunt and Millionaire Raffle.
You’ll need to click on the ‘Play Online’ link to enjoy the opportunity to play the life changing Powerball and Mega Millions draws online. This will direct you to the Pennsylvania iLottery site. When buying tickets to these draws online, you are asked the following questions:
The total cost will be displayed at the bottom of the screen. For example, if you choose to play 3 tickets for 3 consecutive draws, the cost will be $18 (9 draws at $2 each). To be able to play online at the site you’ll need to register first.
As well as playing the lottery, you can also enjoy a series of other games for real money. These are scratch card style games, many with entertaining themes and big jackpots. Games include ‘Pennsylvania Payout’, an online scratch card where you’ll hope to reveal matching numbers for prizes, and James Bond 007, where you’ll aim to reveal 3 or 4 matching spy-related symbols for cash prizes.
To enjoy the full range of lottery options online in Illinois head to https://www.illinoislottery.com/. In the Prairie state you can enjoy a total of 6 different lottery draws online. Both the Powerball and the Mega Millions multi-state draws can be played online. There are four other Illinois-only games you can enjoy without leaving the house:
When playing the IL lottery online, you can make multiple purchases at once. This can be more than one ticket for a single draw, tickets for multiple draws, or both.
You can play the Illinois lottery on your phone too. A useful feature is the automatic win check. This means you’ll still get paid if you forget to check your numbers after a smartphone purchase.
Details of the instant-win scratch cards are displayed on the lottery website. While you can’t play scratch cards online, you can check out which ones catch your eye and then go ahead and purchase them in your local store.
The Georgia lottery page can be found at: https://www.galottery.com/.
This is one of the most vibrant lottery pages online. There are apps available for both Android and iOS devices, ensuring you won’t miss out on any of the draws. In all there are thirteen lottery style draws in Georgia and the five largest games can all be purchased online.
In line with other US lotteries, both the Powerball and the Mega Millions are available to enter online. You can buy tickets through both the website and the app in Georgia. Alongside these two draws you’ll also be able to play the following state draws:
You can play lottery games online in Kentucky by accessing: https://play.kylottery.com/
As well as playing a selection of their draws, you can also enjoy instant-play games. These include varied titles such as Lucky 7’s and Star Match. Some instant games have prizes of over $100,000 available.
In Kentucky, there are a total of 10 lottery style games and five of these can be played online. Alongside the Powerball and Mega Millions draws, you can also enjoy:
You can also check out the scratch cards available in Kentucky via the lottery site to find out exactly how many of the highest prizes are remaining. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll have more chance of landing the big jackpot prizes.
You can play the Kentucky lottery on an app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. On the app, you can play all of the available online games, as well as check the results. You can also scan the barcode of your tickets to see if you’ve won – or find the location of your nearest retailer (to enjoy those draws not available online).
In New Hampshire players can play the lottery online by visiting https://www.nhlottery.com/.
At this site players can enjoy both the Powerball and Mega Millions draws online. ‘Easy pick’ options allow you to buy 3, 5 or 10 tickets at the click of a button. There are a series of nine other lottery style games in the Granite State, although you’ll need to visit a store to be able to play these.
New Hampshire is part of the Tri-State Lottery – along with Maine and Vermont. This means prizes for the popular (retail ticket) draws are pooled. You can win them in any of the three states.
Accessing the big multi-state and tri-state draws isn’t the only option at the New Hampshire online lottery site, as they also feature a series of iLottery games. These can be played for instant cash wins. For example, ‘Prince of Hearts’ is a playing card-based game. You’ll win instant prizes when you reveal the prince himself, while bonus games give you extra ways to win. ‘Instant Football Payout’ is a quickfire game where you select footballs, and each will reveal a cash amount – match the same amount 3 times and you’ve won that prize.
The NH lottery site has a menu for sports betting. This gives you the location of retail sportsbooks, and a link to the only legal online sportsbook – DraftKings.
On the New Hampshire lottery website, you can look up the results of previous draws, as well as search locations to play the rest of the games. If you enter the city, zip code and the type of game you want to play – and you’ll be directed to the nearest retailer.
The Powerball and Mega Millions draws are the two biggest lottery draws in the country and can be played across the majority of states. Both have jackpots which can reach the $100’s of millions. When the prizes get big, people across the country go crazy often forming lines at retail lottery outlets to get tickets.
Here is a rundown of how exactly each of these draws work:
The Powerball lottery draw sees players choose five numbers between 1 and 69, selecting an additional Powerball number between 1 and 26.
The cost of each ticket is $2. And the smallest prize is $4, which comes your way when landing the correct Powerball with one or zero other numbers. The prizes start to become serious when you match four of the five numbers along with the Powerball. This pays $50,000.
Matching all five numbers (without the Powerball) makes you a millionaire. Match all five numbers and the Powerball and you’ll land the grand prize, which starts at $40 million, with the biggest ever jackpot an incredible $1.586 billion – there were 3 winning tickets which split this prize.
You can also add a ‘power play’ into the mix for an extra dollar, which can multiply all of the non-Jackpot prizes by up to 10x.
Powerball draws are held every Wednesday and Saturday.
The Mega Millions draw works in a similar way to the Powerball. You pick five numbers between 1 and 70, and a gold mega ball between 1 and 25.
Land just the mega ball (and no other numbers) and you’ll win your initial $2 stake back. Joining one number with it will see you a $4 pay out. Four numbers plus the mega ball pays $10,000. Five numbers without the mega ball is worth a million dollars. Match all five numbers and the mega ball, and the Jackpot prize is yours – this too starts at $40 million. The largest ever jackpot in this draw is $1.537 billion, won by one ticket holder in South Carolina in 2018.
Players have the option of adding a ‘megaplier’ for an extra dollar, which can multiply your non-Jackpot winnings by 2x, 3x, 4x or 5x.
Mega Millions draws are held every Tuesday and Friday.
Whenever you have a large win when playing the lottery in the US it will be treated as income and subject to both federal and state taxes. You don’t need to report lottery winnings of $600 or less.
If you win $5000 or more, withholding tax will be applied. This means that the lottery will withhold 24% of your prize for federal taxes. This jumps to 37% withholding tax if you win $500k (or $600k as a couple). You’ll be issued a W2-G form, which will be matched with your next tax return.
State taxes vary depending on the income tax bands. Some states have flat rates, while others are tiered. There are some states which do have income taxes that exempt lottery winnings. These include CA, NH and TN.
Unfortunately, you will not be able to offset losses on the lottery against your taxes on your tax returns.
While colonial times saw unregulated lotteries proliferate. These were largely banned by the end of the 19th century. State constitutions were created in puritanical times, with most banning all forms of gambling.
In 1964, lottery gaming returned to mainland USA when New Hampshire launched their own game (Puerto Rica featured a lottery in 1934). Other states quickly followed and the introduction of scratch cards by the lottery operators became a valuable source of revenue.
The first multi-state games appeared in 1985, when Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont joined together in the Tri-State Lottery. In 1988, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia became the charter members of the Multi-State Lottery Association. This is now best known for the Powerball draw, which covers 45 states.
The Big Game, which is now known as Mega Millions, first started in 1996, formed by an association of six other lotteries. While the Powerball and the Mega Millions seem to go hand in hand today, and the companies cross-license the games, the two organizations do continue to run these draws separately.
Alabama and Utah do not offer lotteries on religious grounds, while Alaska and Hawaii do not offer a state lottery either. Surprisingly, due to being known for gambling, Nevada doesn’t offer a state lottery – with the gambling industry strongly lobbying against the formation of one.
Lotteries are popular across the country – with hundreds of millions being raised for education, veterans and other good causes every year.
Many states have now made their lotteries available online. Some simply give rules, results and information about beneficiaries online. Others allow you to purchase tickets online. A new generation of online lottery games allows you to enjoy electronic versions of scratch cards online. Pennsylvania’s iLottery is a leading example.
Restrictions on buying lottery tickets online are still in place in many states. Retail lobbies fear that traffic to their outlets will be reduced where online purchases are possible. In some states you can buy tickets for the multi-state draws (Powerball and Mega Millions), though not the local in-state draws.