California’s $2B lottery winner takes biggest US jackpot

Sacramento, Calif. – The winner of the biggest US lottery jackpot in history is a California public school system alumnus who prefers to stay mostly out of the limelight.

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

The winning ticket was sold at a Joe service center in Altadena, an unincorporated community in the foothills northeast of Los Angeles. But California Lottery winners don’t need to live in the state to win. Joe Chahayed, owner of Joe Service Center, received 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 saying he was “surprised and delighted” to have won the lottery. California’s lottery benefits public schools, and Castro’s statement identified himself as “having been educated in the California public education system”.


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He added, “It is gratifying to hear that as a result of my victory, the California school system has also benefited greatly.”

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

Carolyn Baker, deputy director of the California Lottery, said most people who win big lottery jackpots try to keep a low profile and avoid publicity. But some states prefer to publicly announce winners to “humanize” the lottery by reminding the public that real people win real prizes.

The lottery that Castro won was the largest in American history because of the amount of time it took or someone to select the correct combination of six numbers to win the prize. The Powerball jackpot starts at $20 million and grows every 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.

All those drawings together raised $156.3 million for California public schools, the most ever from a single jackpot, Baker said. Overall, the California Lottery raised $2 billion for public schools in its most recent fiscal year.

“These numbers represent the promises voters have made since creating the lottery in 1984 with the express purpose and intent of raising supplemental funds for public education,” said California Lottery Director Alva Johnson.

Castro’s victory meant that three of the 10 biggest lottery jackpots in US history came from tickets sold in California. The second largest jackpot – $1.586 billion in 2016 – was matched by three tickets sold in California, Florida and Tennessee. A $699.8 million ticket, good enough for the ninth-biggest jackpot of all time, was sold in California in 2021.

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


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