Record $1.6bn US Powerball lottery has three winners

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe odds of winning the grand prize are 1 in 292.2 million

There are at least three winning tickets in the US for the record $1.6bn (£1.1bn) lottery jackpot, officials have said.

The winning tickets in the Powerball jackpot were sold in California, Tennessee and Florida.

The previous draw was the 19th without a grand prize winner, which requires all six numbers to match.

Officials said it would take several hours to know if there were any other winning tickets.

image copyrightPowerball USA
image captionWinning numbers in 13 January draw

The identity of the winners is not yet known.

Thousands of people queued up outside shops across the US on Wednesday, hoping to defy the odds of 292.2 million to one.

California Lottery tweeted that the winning ticket in the state was sold at a 7-Eleven store in Chino Hills, a suburb east of Los Angeles.

Television pictures showed a cheering crowd gathering at the shop after the result was announced.

The winners will share a prize of $1.586bn. They can collect their winnings in annual payments over 29 years, or opt to share a lump-sum payment of $930m.

The government will also share in the big prize, however, levying a 39.6% federal income tax on the winners - and the payout will also be subject any taxes that the winners' home states may impose.

media captionWhat could the winner buy?

Follow the money

Is this really the biggest?

The previous jackpot record was a March 2012 drawing of the US lottery Mega Millions which had a $656m (£457m) prize shared by three winners. Spain's El Gordo is the world's biggest lottery in financial terms - its prize in 2015 totalled €2.24bn ($2.43bn; £1.68 bn). But as there is no single jackpot - the same series are printed in multiple tickets - anyone who has the numbers wins a share of the prize. In Europe, the largest lottery prizes have been lower than in the US, but the jackpots are given as a lump sum rather than as an annuity and most countries do not tax the winnings. The biggest European prize was won in July 2011 by a ticketholder in the UK. That person took home a lump sum of $260m (£161.7m).

Where do Powerball profits go?

Back to the participating states. For example, New Jersey has sold more than $50m in tickets during this current jackpot craze, and lottery officials said about $20m of that would return to the state. More than 15 states use the profits to fund education. However, schools aren't expecting a huge windfall. California officials estimate the lottery money accounts for about 1% of the state's education budget. In Wisconsin, the profits go towards lowering property taxes.

How did the jackpot get so big?

No-one has won the draw since 4 November. The prize is based on ticket sales so high jackpots usually create a snowball effect until a winning combination is picked. A new format introduced in October makes these massive jackpots more likely, meaning more records could be broken in future.

Six of the 50 US states do not participate in the lottery, so some residents drive for hours to other states to buy tickets.

Alabama, Mississippi and Utah cite religious reasons, while Alaska has said it would not be economical in such a sparsely populated state.

In Hawaii, proposed legislation to start participating fails consistently, and in Nevada the lottery is rejected because the state's world-famous casinos prefer not to have competition.

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