When you add up the 10 biggest prize amounts awarded by the North Carolina Lottery over the past 10 years, it totals $1,020,153,533. Those prizes ranged from multi-state draw jackpots to $5 scratch-off prizes.
Created in 2005, the North Carolina Education Lottery is one of the youngest lottery systems in the nation. It’s also one of the first to allow online lottery ticket sales. The Tar Heel State ranks 16th in the nation per 2020 census bureau data – the latest available – in lottery sales per capita at $274.82. However, in terms of lottery payout (the amount paid back for each dollar spent), North Carolina shoots up to eighth at 67 cents on the dollar.
The state offers a wide range of draw and scratch-off games and has seen some big wins in the past decade, including two multistate Powerball jackpot winners. Here is a list of the 10 biggest North Carolina Lottery prizes in the past 10 years:
|Prize Value||Times Won|
No. 1: $344.6 million
In 2019, Charles Jackson of Raleigh felt good about the numbers on his lottery ticket. Using the digits from an old fortune cookie from his step-daughter, he bought a Powerball ticket at Carlie C’s IGA store in Hope Mills.
The 66-year-old Jackson hit the $344.6 million Powerball jackpot. It became the biggest payout in North Carolina Lottery history.
“You play to win, but you don’t ever expect to win,” Jackson said at a news conference, according to The Fayetteville Observer.
Jackson, who used to own a military hardware store on Reilly Road, said he would donate some of the money to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Shriners Hospital for Children and the Wounded Warrior Project. That was a pledge he had made to God if he ever won the lottery.
“I’m going to stick to what I said because that’s somebody you probably shouldn’t lie to,” he said.
No. 2: $188.03 million
The second-largest payout in NC Lottery history was a part of three separate Powerball-jackpot winning tickets purchased in 2015 in North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas.
All three tickets matched the six winning numbers to split a $564.1 million Powerball jackpot.
Marie Holmes, 26, a single mother of four, claimed the winning ticket in North Carolina. She became, at the time, the state’s biggest Powerball winner.
The annuity payment provided $188,033,333, but Holmes chose the $127 million lump sum. After taxes, she took away $87.9 million.
Holmes, an occasional lottery player, told reporters she had plans to continue her education in nursing while caring for her children.
No. 3: $10 million
Get your quarters or keys, and let the scratching commence!
The third-largest North Carolina Lottery prize in the past 10 years was $10 million, won a total of 18 times via scratch-off tickets.
One of the winners, David Winstead, had been playing the lottery two tickets at a time. In September 2016, his strategy finally paid off when he became the second $10 million Ultimate Million winner that year.
The small businessman from Nashville said he and his wife would use the prize money to pay their bills, make home improvements, set up college funds for their grandchildren and donate to their church.
Another winner, Howard Smith III, the first Extreme Millions winner of 2018, owned the Twin Tops Fish Camp seafood restaurant in Gastonia.
Smith struck gold when he bought a $30 Extreme Million scratch-off ticket while running errands at Will’s Food Store. Two days later, he was collecting his winnings from the lottery headquarters in Raleigh.
His 5-year-old asked for a Ferrari when he learned Dad won the lottery. Smith said he’d buy him a toy one instead and set up a trust fund for each of his three children.
No. 4: $7.28 million
Get ready for some “fours/fors.”
The fourth-largest payout, won four times from 2016-2020, was $7.28 million paid out $1,000 a day for life.
The four lucky winners each played the Lucky for Life draw game that paid them $1,000 a day for the rest of their lives.
The jackpot total here is based on the fact that “‘for life’ prizes are guaranteed for a minimum of 20 years.” However, should a player die before 20 years passes, their estate would receive the rest of the annuity through the 20th year.
No. 5: $5.2 million
More for-lifers ahead.
The fifth-largest prize award from the NC Lottery over the past 10 years was $5.2 million from the $5,000 A Week For Life! scratch-off game. The two lucky winners collected their prizes in August 2013 and January 2016.
No. 6: $5 million
The sixth-largest prize award was $5 million paid out eight times in 10 years. These eight winners played three different scratch-off games: 200X the Cash, Mega Cash and Fortune.
No. 7: $4 million
The seventh-largest prize, $4 million, was won a whopping 45 times in 10 years, totaling $180 million in total lottery payout.
Four of those times, the prize was split between two winners. The rest of the 41 times, the $4 million went to one winner.
Twelve different North Carolina scratch-off games paid out the $4 million prize during the 10-year period.
No. 8: $3 million
The eighth-largest prize of $3 million was given away 11 times. Ten of the wins came via scratchers, along with a Mega Millions draw game winner in 2013.
No. 9 $2.6 million
Coming in ninth, $2.6 million was paid out five times, amounting to $13 million from the same game: $2,500 a Week for Life.
No. 10: $2.0002 million
The 10th-largest payout and last on our list was for $2,000,200. It went to one lucky Powerball winner on Jan. 19, 2016.
Scratch-offs for the win in North Carolina
The vast majority of these winners played scratch-off games. In fact, scratch-off tickets are the most popular variety of lottery tickets in North Carolina by far. Indeed, they accounted for 68% of all lottery sales in 2022.
While Powerball and Mega Millions may get more attention for their larger prizes, scratch-offs have typically provided a better return on investment for smaller prizes.
However, as this list shows, scratchers can still pull down some serious cash.