Why Have There Been So Many Giant Lottery Jackpots In The Last Seven Years?

New York Powerball Ticket

Imagine this: You’re standing in line at your local convenience store, eyeing the bright displays of lottery tickets. The jackpot amounts in red on the LED lotto screen are mind-boggling, seemingly soaring into another dimension. You buy a lotto ticket, with the cashier randomly selecting numbers and giving you a “good luck” on the way out the door. 

In your car, you briefly fantasize about what you’d do if you hit the $875 million jackpot. Houses? Cars? Vacations? Taking care of loved ones? 

But let’s rewind the clock and compare it to yesterday. Back in the day, those jackpots didn’t pack the same punch. In fact, winning the Powerball or Mega Millions was a different ball game altogether.

Why does it seem like there are more Powerball or Mega Millions lotteries with eyeball staggering amounts of money – sometimes in the billions?

Just take a look at the list of top lottery jackpots all-time, as of July 2023. 

  1. $2.04 billion, Powerball – November 7, 2022; California.
  2. $1.586 billion, Powerball — January 13, 2016; California, Florida, Tennessee.
  3. $1.537 billion, Mega Millions — October 23, 2018; South Carolina.
  4. $1.35 billion, Mega Millions — January 13, 2023; Maine.
  5. $1.337 billion, Mega Millions — July 29, 2022; Illinois.
  6. $1.05 billion, Mega Millions — January 22, 2021; Michigan.
  7. $768.4 million, Powerball — March 27, 2019; Wisconsin.
  8. $758.7 million, Powerball — August 23, 2017; Massachusetts.
  9. $754.6 million, Powerball — February 6, 2023; Washington.
  10. $731.1 million, Powerball — January 20, 2021; Maryland.

Notice how all those mega jackpots are after October 2015? 

In October 2015, Powerball intentionally made the game harder to win. The white-ball Powerball Pool increased from 59 to 69 while the Powerball pool decreased from 35 to 26. While this improved the chance of winning any prize in the drawing to 1 in 24.

But simultaneously, it also lengthened the jackpot odds to a staggering 1 in 292,201,338, making it much harder to hit. 

The Power Play option also changed on this date – if the jackpot is worth $150 million or less, a 10x Power Play option was possible, in addition to the 2x, 3x, 4x and 5x options currently available.

Should the jackpot exceed $150 million, the 10x Power Play was no longer offered.

So your odds of winning $4 greatly improved. But the jackpot? Not so much. 

Why the changes? Because lotto ticket sales were slumping at the time, starting in 2013. In 2014, Powerball sales declined nationally by 19% last year, mostly because there was no huge jackpot that year. 

The situation was dire for the lottery, which provides states and communities with important dollars to fund various projects.

As history shows, the changes worked, creating bigger jackpots and a much-needed flurry of lottery sales. 

In October 2017, Mega Millions followed with a similar rule change, for similar reasons. The Mega Millions double matrix changed, from 5/75 + 1/15 to the current 5/70 + 1/25. The odds of winning the jackpot increase significantly, from 1 in 258,890,000 to 1 in 302,575,350. 

Fast forward to today, and the odds have skyrocketed, making any outside change of winning these lotteries even tougher.

But it certainly still happens. Edwin Castro, 30, won the November 2022 $2 billion Powerball jackpot – the largest lottery of all time. 

The Los Angeles man bought the ticket at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, California, and received around $997.6 million as a one-time lump sum payment.

Since then, Castro has reportedly done a little shopping, buying $25.5 million Hollywood Hills mansion in March, along with a $4 million house in his hometown of Altandena

Despite the staggering odds, Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots will probably continue to skyrocket.

Even though the odds are very stacked against you, the promise of unimaginable wealth keeps people in the game, one ticket and a dream at a time.

B. Carlisle

Contributing editor at Wealth Gang. An entrepreneur at heart, he's passionate about meaningful ways to leverage technology and social media for business opportunities and side hustles.