The Real Cost of the Lottery

By Lewis Braham - 2012-11-28T21:32:58Z

Photograph by Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register/AP Photo

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The Prize

Lotteries paid $32.8 billion in prizes in 2010. Prizes have ranged from as little as $2 to $390 million, the biggest jackpot in U.S. history won in the Mega Millions lottery on March 6, 2007. That payout was reduced to $233.1 million after 40 percent in taxes were deducted. Winners of a big prize can receive it in a lump sum or an annuitized payout over several years. (If winners die, their beneficiaries get the payments.) Depending on the jackpot's size, winners may be in a lower tax bracket with the annuity, though rates could rise significantly in the future.

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