(KTLA) — For the second time in less than a year, California has sold a record-setting Powerball ticket, with one purchased in Los Angeles matching the numbers drawn Wednesday night for a $1.08 billion grand prize.
Within just a few hours of the drawing, we knew there was a winner, and even where the ticket had been purchased. So why don’t we already know who the lucky ticketholder is?
Security is a big part of it.
Shortly after a drawing, like last night’s Powerball drawing, the California Lottery receives an automated report, according to Carolyn Becker, the agency’s deputy director of public affairs and communications. That report details where winning tickets — either a jackpot or any that matched five of the six numbers drawn — were sold in the state.
“That’s why we know quickly where a winning ticket is sold in California,” Becker told Nexstar earlier this year. “So we know the results, if you will, in that regard, before the results are finalized at the national level for Powerball and Mega Millions.”
How quickly a state gets its results can vary from state to state. It took hours for results to be available for California’s last major Powerball win — a $2.04 billion prize won in November 2022, which is currently the largest lottery prize ever in the U.S.
States won’t necessarily know right away whether their lucky jackpot winner is the only one. As Becker explains, that isn’t confirmed until all participating jurisdictions — 45 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for Powerball games — have certified their results.
The state lottery also knows a lot more information about the winner than what they share with the public. According to Becker, thanks to the connected computer system of its retailers and the information it collects, the California Lottery knows when the jackpot-winning ticket was purchased and how many tickets were bought in the same transaction.
So why not publicize that information to help find the winner? Because it’s all used during the potential winner vetting process.
In California, for example, it can take weeks or even months for those claiming to be the winner to be confirmed, according to Becker. That process involves lottery staff, which includes security and law enforcement officials, who work to determine whether the claimant is a winner or a scammer.
“We have a very thorough process internally, at least here in California, to vet big winners,” she told Nexstar. “We don’t even call them winners until they’re cleared by that security review.”
Anyone claiming to have won the jackpot will have to corroborate the information the lottery collects from the computer, like how many tickets they purchased and when. The lottery will also review security camera footage from the retailer as well as the ticket, which has unique qualities much like a $1 bill (or any paper currency) carries.
“We just have to have reasonable – and I’m talking about from a legal perspective – reasonable evidence to support that this person claiming the money is indeed the winner or not,” Becker previously explained to Nexstar. “The integrity of the game is taken extraordinarily seriously.”
Lying about being a lottery winner can come with more than a slap on the wrist. In California, filing a false claim is a felony, Becker said.
So even though we know the $1.08 billion jackpot was won by a single ticket sold at the Las Palmitas Mini Market located at 1205 Wall Street in downtown L.A. near the Skid Row neighborhood, it could be weeks or months until a winner is confirmed. It took three months to confirm Edwin Castro had won the $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot, though one man says Castro isn’t the rightful winner.
If your Powerball ticket for Wednesday’s drawing matched the jackpot-winning numbers — 7, 10, 11, 13, and 24, and red Powerball 24 — you have one full year to claim your prize, according to the California Lottery.