Winner of California’s $2B lottery gets largest U.S. jackpot

Feb 14, 2023, 10:42 AM | Updated: 4:09 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The winner of the largest U.S. lottery jackpot in history is a former student in the California public school system who wants to mostly stay out of the spotlight.

California lottery officials on Tuesday said Edwin Castro won the record-breaking $2.04 billion Powerball prize in November. But they couldn’t say anything else about him. State law says Castro’s name is in the public record, but nothing else is — including his age and where he lives.

The winning ticket was sold at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, an unincorporated community in the foothills northeast of Los Angeles. But California Lottery winners aren’t required to live in the state to win. Joe Chahayed, the owner of Joe’s Service Center, got a $1 million bonus for selling the winning ticket.

Castro declined an invitation from state officials to speak to reporters on Tuesday. Instead, he sent a written statement that said he was “shocked and ecstatic” to have won the lottery. California’s lottery benefits public schools, and Castro’s statement identified himself as “being educated in the California public education system.”

“It’s gratifying to hear that, as a result of my win, the California school system greatly benefits as well,” he said.

Winners can choose to receive their winnings over 30 annual payments or as a lump sum. State officials said Castro chose the lump sum of $997.6 million.

Most people who win big lottery jackpots try to keep a low profile and avoid publicity, California Lottery Deputy Director Carolyn Becker said. But some states like to announce winners publicly to “humanize” the lottery by reminding the public that real people win real prizes.

The lottery that Castro won was the largest in U.S. history because it took so long or someone to choose the correct combination of six numbers to win the prize. The Powerball jackpot starts at $20 million and increases each time there is no winner. There were more than 40 consecutive drawings before Castro’s numbers were called: 10, 33, 41, 47 and 56, plus the red Powerball was 10.

Becker said all of those drawings raised $156.3 million for California public schools, the most ever from a single jackpot. Altogether, the California Lottery collected $2 billion for public schools in their most recent fiscal year.

“These numbers represent promises kept since voters created the lottery in 1984 with the explicit purpose and intent to raise supplemental funding for public education,” California Lottery Director Alva Johnson said.

Castro’s win means that three of the 10 largest lottery jackpots in U.S. history have come from tickets sold in California. The second-largest jackpot — $1.586 billion in 2016 — matched three tickets sold in California, Florida and Tennessee. A $699.8 million ticket, good enough for the ninth largest jackpot ever, was sold in California in 2021.

State officials have Castro’s winning ticket. Becker said they’re considering putting it on display at the lottery’s headquarters.

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Winner of California’s $2B lottery gets largest U.S. jackpot