- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The largest lottery prize in history has created a nationwide frenzy to get to the convenience store to buy tickets, and now Canadians are flooding in from the North to take their chances at winning the jackpot, which currently stands at $1.5 billion.

Thousands of Canadians have been traveling from cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal for a chance to become the world’s next billionaire.

“I’m going to take my chances just like everyone else,” Shari Ann, a player who drove nearly two hours from her home in Ontario to play, told CBS News. “We come here and drop a lot of money on a regular basis. We shop in the U.S. a lot. So we give to you. It’s time to give back!”

U.S. law does not prohibit foreigners from playing the lottery or claiming the winnings.

“You do not have to be a citizen or a resident to play the game. You can be a tourist,” the Powerball website said.

“The Canadians — they’re coming like crazy here for the lotto,” Alex Traverso of the California State Lottery told CBS. “You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to buy a Powerball ticket, as long as you’re buying your tickets at an authorized retail location, then that’s fine with us.”

Winners outside of the U.S. can expect to pay more taxes on the winnings. The federal government can withhold 30 percent of gambling winnings paid to a foreigner — 5 percent more than or a U.S. resident, CBS reported.

State taxes are also taken from the winnings, and depending on which state a Canadian buys their tickets in, the tax can be quite high. New York has one of the highest state lottery taxes as more than 8 percent.

But there is a catch, a little known law prevents Canadians from buying a Powerball ticket, taking it home and then returning to the U.S. to claim the winnings. If they do, they risk violating a law that forbids importing “immoral articles,” CTV New reported.

According to the law, “all persons are prohibited from importing into the United States from any foreign country any … lottery ticket, or any printed paper that may be used as a lottery ticket, or any advertisement of any lottery.”

Lisa Yuen, a native of Burnaby, British Columbia, was informed of the law when she crossed the border last week on her way to buy a lottery ticket.

“We got a bit of a lecture from the border guard, saying that you can buy a ticket, but you can’t take it back into Canada and then come back to the United States,” she told CTV.

But the law isn’t stopping thousands of determined Canadians from trying their luck.

After buying $34 worth of tickets in her cross-border trip last week, Ms. Yuen said that, for her, the $1.4B jackpot is worth the risk.

“It’s a chance I’m willing to take,” she said, CTV reported.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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