Industry Reports

The Biggest Jackpots Wins in Canada

Judging by the countless headlines, winning the lottery must be an exhilarating and memorable experience and some of the luckiest people have the strangest stories to tell. Winning transforms regular people into millionaires in an instant. There are numerous accounts about lucky men and women who bought a single lottery ticket in their life and that ticket brought them a fortune. Others try their luck on a daily basis by betting on sports, playing in local lotteries, or visiting casinos. It may be pointless to try to understand how luck works, but it is certainly interesting to see who has won the biggest jackpots in history.

While the biggest jackpot pool is believed to be the Spanish Christmas lottery, worth US$2.310 billion in 2016, some of the largest jackpots ever hit were in the United States. The highest jackpot and cash value for a single ticket in the world were won last year in the U.S. when a single US$758.7 Powerball ticket made its lucky holder US$480.5 million richer. Taking part in U.S. lotteries and real-money games certainly sounds attractive at first, but Canadian citizens should be aware that their potential winnings would be taxed if they travel south of the border to try their luck.

While any winnings from Canadian lotteries are generally tax-free, Canadians who acquire any prizes including gambling winnings from the U.S. will have to pay a 30 per cent withholding tax to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). But let us focus on the some of the more recent jackpot wins in Canada – they may be not as impressive in terms of value but are just as remarkable for the impact they tend to have on individuals and entire communities.

The Largest Lottery Jackpot in Canada

The largest lottery jackpot in Canada was drawn in October 2015 and the holder of the 6/49 Lotto ticket won $64 million. The record-breaking jackpot went to a person who initially chose to remain anonymous – probably for safety reasons. Indeed, the amount of this win is much smaller than the record-breaking wins reported in the United States or Europe. However, it is important to note that while the population of the U.S. is around 325.7 million according to 2017 US Census Bureau estimates, approximately 10 times fewer people live in Canada, or around 36.3 million (data by the World Bank).

These facts are essential for one main reason – because lottery jackpots increase with every ticket bought by people. The ticket for Canada’s largest lottery jackpot in was purchased in the City of Mississauga, Ontario, and several months later, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) announced the name of the winner – Zhe Wang from Mississauga. The young woman bought the ticket from a Petro-Canada station on Artesian Drive in the city. She was the single owner and given the fact that gambling winnings in Canada are not taxed, she took the entire amount of the jackpot. It seems that Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, is a great place to live if you dream of winning a fortune.

Record $120 Million Payout to 2 Winners in 1 Day

Only a couple of months after the largest jackpot win in Canadian history, another lottery jackpot was won in the City of Mississauga. Retired human resources manager John Henry became $60 million richer at December 25, 2015, Lotto Max draw. Henry, originally from Sudbury, Ontario, claimed his prize on February 24 – on the same day when another $60 million-winner, Joan Patterson, received her check at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation headquarters.

The lucky woman, who lives near Owen Sound in Southwestern Ontario, won in the February 5 Lotto Max draw and decided to collect her winnings on the same day. This was a record payout for OLG which awarded the two a combined amount of $120 million. Interestingly, both winners said that they would donate a large part of their newly acquired fortunes. Apart from a trip to the Kentucky Derby, Henry planned to support several causes, including children’s health, children’s sports and mental health initiatives. Patterson, on the other hand, said she would like to start a charity foundation but also to splurge on a few things such as a sports car and a horse trailer.

Come By Chance: 31 Oil Refinery Workers Split $60 Million

On February 28, 2018, 31 Newfoundland co-workers received a $60-million Lotto Max jackpot, the biggest jackpot ever won in Atlantic Canada. Among them, there are twin brothers, three people who live on the same street, a married couple, and a father and son. They live in different communities across Newfoundland and Labrador, but they all work at the only oil refinery in the province. It is located in a small town, called Come By Chance, apparently a fitting name for the community of only 230 residents.

One of the winners, Sherry Moore Hickey says she that she called her co-workers, including her husband Lee, when she found out their ticket had the matching numbers for the jackpot. The good news was brought to her with an urgent phone call at about 4:30 a.m. It was 63-year-old Eugene Lewis who checked the numbers and retired later that day. Understandably, another five oil refinery workers decided to retire too after winning their share of the jackpot, an amount of around $1.9 million. Most of them, however, have chosen to remain boilermakers at the refinery and buy a new car or invest in their children’s education.

Winning Lifetime Payments on 18th Birthday

On March 14, 2018, Canadian Charlie Lagarde received a surprise gift for her 18th birthday when she scratched the first lottery ticket she bought in her life. The young lady decided to celebrate her coming of age with two things she was now allowed to purchase for the first time – a bottle of wine and a $4 ticket to the Gagnant a Vie lottery which turned out to be winning. The girl, from the Monteregie area southeast of Montreal, was given the option to either collect the jackpot as a lump sum of $1 million or receive it as lifetime annuities.

After a couple of weeks of considering her options, Lagarde finally chose the annuity – this way she would receive weekly payments of $1,000 for the rest of her life. Loto-Quebec, the provincial Crown corporation managing the lottery gave her the check on March 26. According to their spokesman, the payments should be equivalent to an annual salary of more than $100,000 as they will not be taxed. This is an extraordinary amount of income for an 18-year-old person who has probably never even had a job. Data from Statistics Canada reveals that the average wage for Canadian employees is currently $952 per week, which is around $50,000 a year.

$50 Million Gift for Mother’s Day

Some headlines about big lottery wins are filled with strange coincidences and this was one of them when it hit newspapers in 2014. A 63-year-old woman living in North York, Toronto, won the Lotto Max draw on May 9, 2014, taking the $50 million jackpot. Sophie Rizavas found out that the great news the next day, May 10, which is Mother’s Day in Canada and she used the occasion to gather her family and tell them at dinner. The jackpot, which remains one of the biggest lottery wins in Canada’s history, was much more than a million-dollar worth Mother’s Day gift, however.

Sophie Rizavas claimed her $50-million check on April 13 and told to the media that she discovered that she had won exactly 44 years after immigrating to Canada with her husband from Greece. This is just one of the interesting coincidences, however. While speaking to reporters at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s prize centre, Rizavas told them that she had prayed for money the night before she won. Whether her prayers were answered or it was just pure luck, she was grateful to fate, God, and her decision to buy a Lotto Max ticket.