Can the Florida winners remain anonymous?


Hoping for riches in tonight’s historic Mega Millions lottery draw? The third-biggest jackpot since the game began twenty years ago can net one or more lucky winners over $1 billion (before taxes) and people are understandably a little excited.

So how does it work? Can you pick up your oversized check around the corner from 7-Eleven? How long do you have to claim your prize? Can you remain anonymous in the Florida Lottery? Is owning a yacht a good investment?

We have answers. Except for the yacht.

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Can Florida Lottery winners remain anonymous?

Not for long, sorry. But at least now you have a head start.

By Florida law, the Florida Lottery must provide records of the winner’s name, city of residence, what they won, when they won it, and how much they won at anyone asks. (Mailing addresses and phone numbers are kept confidential, for what it’s worth.)

But, starting May 25 of this year, the names of anyone claiming prizes of $250,000 or more will be temporarily exempt from disclosure for 90 days from the date the prize is claimed, unless the winner don’t give it up. So you have three months to get your affairs in order and hire someone to answer your phone.

Can lottery tickets be purchased online?

No. The Florida Lottery does not sell tickets by mail, fax, or online, and does not offer a subscription service.

Where can I buy lottery tickets near me? Does Publix sell lottery tickets?

Almost everyone does. There are over 13,000 authorized Florida Lottery retailers statewide, and you can probably find one near you by checking out the list at

Can you buy lottery tickets with a debit card in Florida?

Maybe, depending on the retailer. Florida prohibits the purchase of lottery tickets with credit cards, but says nothing specifically about debit cards. It depends on where you buy them.

Can I buy a ticket and give it to someone else?

Sure. You must be 18 or older to claim a prize, and whoever presents it will be the one who gets paid.

How long do I have to claim my Florida Lottery prize?

It depends on the game and how you want to be paid.

Florida Lottery Draw Game Prizes: If the game offers a one-time cash option (like, for example, Mega Millions), you only have 60 days after the winning numbers are drawn to claim it. But you have 180 days from that date if you want the 30-year payment option.

Florida Lottery Scratch and Quick Play Prizes: You have 60 days from the drawing date to claim them. But if you have the ticket validated, you have 90 days to claim your winnings.

What happens if I lose my Florida lottery ticket?

First of all, always sign the back of your tickets as soon as you buy them in case of loss or theft. If you believe your ticket has been lost or stolen, call the Florida Lottery Security Division at (850) 487-7730.

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What if you bought a ticket outside of Florida (or lived somewhere else and bought one here)? Where do you claim it?

You will need to claim your ticket in the state it was purchased if it is a multi-state game like Powerball, Mega Millions or CASH4LIFE. If you live out of state, you can claim scratch tickets you purchased here by mailing them to Claims Processing, Florida Lottery, 250 Marriott Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32399-9939. You will receive a check in the mail. Get more details at

Are Florida Lottery winnings deposited directly or do I get a check?

Up to you. Winners can choose to receive a check or have money transferred directly to their accounts. If you win big, direct deposit is safer.

If I win, when do I get the money?

If you earn less than $250,000, same business day. Any amount over $250,000 will be deposited directly within two business days. If you win a top prize in Mega Millions, Powerball or CASH4LIFE, these will only be paid out 15 days after the winning numbers are drawn, and may have a two-day waiting period after that.

Until what time can you buy lottery tickets?

This varies from game to game. It’s 10:40 p.m. for Florida Lotto, Jackpot Triple Play and Fantasy Five, 10 p.m. for Mega Millions and Powerball, 8:30 p.m. for CASH4LIFE, etc. Check with your local retailer or view the schedule here.

Where can I claim my lottery prize in Florida?

Price $599 or less you can get it at any place that sells Florida lottery tickets.

Price from $600 to $999,999 you must visit a Florida Lottery District office if the game does not offer an annual payment option. You can find them at

Prizes over $1,000,000 plus all prizes with an annual payment option, congratulations! You will need to take a road trip to Tallahassee to the Florida Lottery headquarters. You can submit your winning ticket to a Florida Lottery District office for forwarding to Head Office for processing and payment, but you will need to claim it in Tallahassee.

How much tax do I have to pay on Florida Lottery winnings?

If it’s more than $5,000, the IRS requires the Florida Lottery to withhold 24% of that total in federal withholdings. If you don’t have a Social Security card or are a resident alien, they will withhold 24% from any winnings of $600 or more. If you are a non-resident alien, it is 30% of all prize money.

However, lottery winnings can be taxed up to 37%, so you may have to come up with the extra 13% yourself when the time comes. Talk to your tax professional soon.

The Internal Revenue Service requires the Florida Lottery to report all winnings of $600 and over for US citizens and resident aliens.

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What time does the Mega Millions draw?

11 p.m., Tuesday and Friday. The only chance of matching all six numbers is approximately 1 in 303 million. Good luck!

CA Bridges is a digital producer for the USA TODAY Network, working with multiple newsrooms across Florida. Local journalists work hard to keep you informed about the topics that interest you, and you can support them by subscribing to your local news agency. Read more of Chris’ articles here and follow him on Twitter at @cabridges


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