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The state lotteries and MUSL (the organization that runs Powerball) are all very firm in their assertion that playing the lottery in any manner over the Internet is illegal.  We are not lawyers and can’t provide legal advice, but we are not so sure about their position.  Their absolute certainty that it is illegal may have more to do with not wanting to lose control of the player interaction, and less to do with a firm legal footing.

When we assess the legality, we look at what has actually happened in court cases.  There have been people in the past who purchased a lottery ticket from an Internet Web site, subsequently won the jackpot, and the lottery attempted to block them from receiving the jackpot.  In each case, the winners took the lottery to court and won.  They received their jackpot as if they walked into a store and purchased a ticket.

You must keep in mind that any type of Internet-based lottery service is not risk-free.  From a legal standpoint, the services are dealing in loopholes in the current law, and the US Congress has taken steps to make those loopholes tighter, particularly in trying to prevent banks and credit cards from allowing Internet payments for lottery services.  But there is a much bigger threat when you use an Internet lottery service: getting ripped off.

By not making a purchase in a store, you may be doing something worse than throwing your money away: you may be helping to keep a scam operation running.  Stay away from anything referring to a «syndicate».  We are not aware of any site using that terminology that is not a scam.  Also beware of sites that state «Insured by ___» at the bottom.  It is like saying «We don’t really buy lottery tickets, but trust us, you’ll get paid if you win.»  Have you ever heard of an insurance company paying out a $200 million Powerball jackpot?  We haven’t.

We do allow some advertising on USA Mega for lottery services.  We recommend that USA residents stay away from such services, and make your purchases in a store.  The ads are directed at non-USA residents, who may not have the online lottery restrictions that exist in the USA.

Why is the cash option always a different percentage of the annuity from draw to draw?

If you’re calculating what percentage the cash value is of the annuity, then you’re looking at it backwards. The cash value is the starting point, as it is a direct percentage of ticket sales. Then the annuity amount is calculated from that, based on prevailing interest rates. Since the interest rates are constantly changing, the annuity amount calculated on one day will be a different number than if it is calculated the next day. So when a drawing occurs and the lottery has to estimate the next annuity jackpot, they first estimate the number of tickets that will be sold for the next drawing, which determines what the cash value estimate is (because a fixed percentage of each ticket sold goes toward prizes). Then they finally calculate what the annuity will be based on the current interest rates.

If I should win the jackpot, do I have the option of remaining anonymous as far as the public and the media are concerned?

In most states, lottery winner information is public domain, therefore it is public information. 
Publicized information normally includes the jackpot winner’s name, city, county, game in which they won,
date won, and the amount of the prize.

After you win the jackpot, we recommend seeking the professional guidance of a good lawyer and accountant to see if there are ways of maintaining as much privacy as possible— before contacting the lottery and/or claiming the prize, and possibly even before letting friends or family know.  You may be tempted to yell to the rooftops in glee about your newfound fortune, but you will probably end up regretting that decision once the excitement of the win calms down, and you are left with a continuous stream of lawsuits and requests for money from those who want a piece of your win.

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