World's Largest Lottery Jackpots: 5 Drawings That Made History

5 Lottery Jackpots That Broke World Records

Record-Breaking Lottery Jackpots from Around the World
•••  Image (c) Kulka / Getty Images

Have you ever wondered who's won the biggest jackpot ever? Which lottery gives away the most money? Or what the world's oldest lottery is? Here are five record-breaking lotteries from around the world:

1. The World's Biggest Lottery Jackpot: Powerball's $1.5 Billion Drawing

As 2015 came to a close, Powerball sales started to rise, and growing excitement turned into a ticket-buying frenzy. By the first Powerball drawing in 2016, the projected jackpot had reached more than $333 million, and the very next drawing crested half a billion.

When no winning ticket was awarded, the value of the jackpot leaped to $949 million and then to $1.5 billion, when three winning tickets were finally sold. At that point, more than 89 percent of all of the possible Powerball combinations had been played, so the odds were high that the next jackpot, which was estimated at more than $2 billion, would not be reached. 

The three winning tickets of the record-breaking jackpot belonged to John and Lisa Robinson from Tennessee, Maureen Smith and David Kaltschmidt from Florida, and Marvin from Mae Acosta in California. Each had chosen the correct numbers: 4, 8, 19, 27, 34 and 10 for the Powerball.

All three winners chose to take the lump-sum payout option. Two of the winners came forward immediately while the Acostas prudently waited to claim their prize so that they could get their advisory team together first.

2. The Largest Lottery Jackpot Won by a Single Person

When all of the winning Powerball numbers finally matched a ticket on August 23rd, 2017, the jackpot shattered records. $758.7 million might only have been the second-largest jackpot ever, but it was the biggest prize ever awarded to a single lottery player. 

The winner of the record-breaking jackpot was Mavis Wanczyk from Massachusetts, who had purchased five lottery tickets in the hope of winning enough money to go into early retirement from her 32-year position as a hospital worker. After becoming one of the world's wealthiest people overnight, the first thing she did was to quit her job.

Wanczyk took a lump-sum payout of $480 million, which came out to about $336 million after state and federal taxes according to a Washington Post article. Wanczyk, whose husband was killed the year before in a hit-and-run accident, needed to have police patrols around her home to prevent her from being harassed after her huge win.

3. The Largest Total Prize Pool: Spain's Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad

Spain's Christmas Lottery, the Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad, breaks records for exactly the opposite reason as the jackpot above. It has the biggest total prize pool of any lottery in the world, topping €2.31 billion in 2017. But because there are so many prize levels, and so many tickets sold, the individual prizes won are smaller.

The Sorteo Extraordinario de Navidad prints tickets with five-digit numbers on them, ranging from 00000 to 99999. Each of the 100,000 possible numbers is printed multiple times, allowing for millions of tickets to be printed. The tickets cost 200€ each, so they are broken down into ten sub-parts, each of which can be purchased for 20€, and each of which will receive 10 percent of the prize if that number wins.

A whopping 90 percent of the Spanish population takes the chance to win El Gordo, the jackpot, on December 22nd of each year.

If you want to play, too, you don't need to be a Spanish citizen, but you do need to buy a ticket in person in Spain at any time starting in the summer and running through December 7th of each year. Be sure to purchase only from registered retailers to avoid scams.

4. The World's Longest Continuously-Running Lottery

The Spanish Christmas Lottery is not only distinguished by its large prize pool but also by how long it has been running. But it isn't the world's oldest lottery; that record is held by the Staatsloterij in the Netherlands.

The Dutch State Lottery was founded in The Hague in 1726, and it's still running today. The word "lottery" comes from the Dutch word "lot" meaning "fate."

But although a 300-year-history is impressively long, lotteries were already common when the Staatsloterij was founded. They were used to fund fortifications, feed the poor, and outfit soldiers for war. The first recorded lottery was held in Milan in 1449.

5. The Largest Lottery Jackpot in Europe

The largest lottery jackpot in Europe was a £161.7 million prize awarded on July 12th, 2011, from the EuroMillions lottery. Only one winning ticket was sold, making it the largest jackpot awarded to a single player in Europe

Although the jackpot amount is smaller than those frequently reached by Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries in the United States, European lottery winners have a big advantage over their U.S. counterparts: in many cases, they do not have to pay taxes on their prizes.

So unless you are a resident of Switzerland, Spain, or Portugal, EuroMillions winners keep 25 percent or more of their total prize value than U.S. winners do.