STONE MOUNTAIN, Georgia – The Mega Millions lottery jackpot is a coveted prize for millions of ticket purchasers. The promise of riches via a ticket costing $1 is too good to pass up for many individuals. CNN reported that in 2011, $65.5 billion was spent on buying lottery tickets. Since the first state lottery in 1965, sales have increased each year. Of the Powerball sales (used as an example), approximately 25% goes to state governments, 10% goes to administrative and advertising costs, and 60% goes towards winnings. The remaining 5% goes to the vendors as commission.
Tuesday’s drawing was for the second largest sum in history. The $648 million payout will be split between two people, one in Georgia and one in California. The Georgia woman chose to receive her winnings in a lump sum, which, will amount to about $120 million after taxes. In addition, the owner of the California store that sold one of the winning tickets will receive $1 million, as part of a state law giving the retailer 0.5% of the winnings or up to $1 million. On the other hand, due to Georgia state laws, the other vendor will not receive any payout.
To add a bit of perspective, $648 million is more than at least 16 countries’ entire gross domestic product. Most are island nations in the Pacific or Caribbean, and several are in the immediate vicinity of the U.S.
One of the closest nations is Dominica, an island in the Caribbean amongst the chain to the southeast of Puerto Rico. The agriculture-based economy brings in an annual gross domestic product (GDP) totaling $473.5 million, just under 75% of the Mega Millions winnings. With less than 75,000 residents the gross national income per capita is still a respectable $13,000, though an estimated 29% live below the national poverty line. The lottery jackpot is the equivalent of over half of every resident’s annual income.
Approximately 230 miles directly east of Puerto Rico lies Anguilla, an island of less than 16,000. One of Anguilla’s main sources of income is tourism, drawn to its tropical climate and beaches. The other top-earning sector is offshore banking. Anguilla attracts offshoring-banking investments due to its lack of personal or corporate income taxes. All together, the gross domestic product is $175.4 million, and per capita was estimated at $18.4 thousand in 2011. If split between every resident, the lottery pot would provide each person with over $41,000, which is over twice the average income.
Situated to the north of the U.S., less than 20 miles off of the southern tip of Newfoundland, is the island of St. Pierre et Miquelon. With only 5,774 residents, the French territory boasts a per capita GDP of nearly $35,000. Its economy is fueled primarily by the fishing industry, but also by the burgeoning tourism industry spurred by the island’s image of ‘France in North America’. The island’s affluent image would rise exponentially with $648 million. The money is enough to add over $112,000 to every resident’s income this year.
Finally, there is American Samoa. Though hardly the closest to the U.S. geographically, the island is certainly the closest politically since it has been a U.S. territory for 114 years. Though the U.S. per capita GDP is estimated at $50,700, American Samoa’s per capita GDP hovers around $8,000. Furthermore, the overall GDP is $462.2 million, compared to the U.S. total of over $16 trillion annually. The lottery winnings is the equivalent of giving each of the 54,750 residents $11,842.
The 12 or more countries with annual GDPs lower than the lottery winnings are primarily islands. Larger countries, both in terms of population and geography, generally have a higher gross domestic product but not necessarily a higher GDP per capita. The U.S. may boast $16 trillion annually, there are still an estimated 47 million people living in poverty. The Mega Millions lottery winnings that were split between two individuals could easily provide a great deal more needed assistance to many more individuals.
– Katey Baker-Smith