Foreign Lotteries are a No-No for Americans—or Are They?

Foreign lotteries

Foreign Lotteries Are Not for U.S. Citizens? Let’s Look Closer

If you’re an American and you want to get in on that foreign money by playing their lotteries, the US Postal Service has a little advice for you—“Don’t Do It!” Well, if that doesn’t seem unfair! International folks can play our Mega Millions and PowerBall, thus making our chances at winning them smaller, but we cannot play theirs? Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

What is the Deal?

While no law says Americans cannot play a foreign lottery, the laws are saying that prohibits us from buying a ticket, share, or a chance of winning a by mail, telephone or online. So… That pretty much says it is illegal. This law is meant to protect us from getting scammed from dishonest crooks like the Nigerian Prince a.k.a. Albert Onolunose from Canada who used the telemarketing tactics and the postal system to scam $3 million from people in the US. According to the US Postal Inspection Service, it is said to be impractical because we cannot be sure we are getting the ticket that we paid for. Not only that, but it is an invitation to have our identities stolen.

I guess we cannot fault the government for wanting to protect us from crooks abroad, but we are grown adults. Why are we not allowed to make that decision for ourselves? If we’re going to throw our money away, that should be our choice on where and how we do it, dammit!

Getting Past the Law…?

We may have laws that say we cannot play foreign lotteries from home; however, there is nothing that says we cannot play them if we go on vacation. The only caveat is that your winnings may be subjected to double taxation—in the original country and the US as an income tax. As a rule, Americans have to report any income on our tax returns, including lottery winnings. This does not necessarily mean we have to pay taxes on it though, that depends on how much the winnings are.

If you live and work abroad, you may be eligible for foreign earned income exclusion, while lets you exclude a particular amount of income that you earned while overseas. In this case, the only income that is taxed is money that you earned by either working or being self-employed. Therefore, this means any foreign lottery winnings are not treated as an earned income, but it still needs to be reported.

I know it is confusing. To make things even more confusing, we have foreign tax credits, which is designed so that you do not have to pay tax on the same income (lottery winnings) in more than one country. To make a long and boring story short, you can play foreign lotteries, but it may be more hassle than it is worth. Especially since, you have to go to the country in question, play their lottery and wait for the drawing. Then you will have to pay their taxes and come home and maybe pay US taxes and a slew of other nonsense… Perhaps it is just more comfortable sticking to our lotteries.

  1. You can play foreign lotteries.
    You can also collect the money.
    What American Government wants you to believe is that when you win IRS is entitled to taxes.
    That is bullshit because your money was not from America.
    Simply go to the country in which you won and bank the money.
    Then fly back to America.
    Personally if I won millions of dollars leaving America would not be an issue for me.

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    • This is completely false. Once you go through customs are going to want to see everything you have.

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  2. What if you win a “lottery” type drawing from signing up for something at a store i.e. a discount card or something. That being said, the lottery is drawn in say, England but they also have a North American payment office for a situation where an American citizen wins and that office then takes over and does everything else. Would that be possible and would it be legal?

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  3. It is my understanding that it is legal to play foreign lotteries online, but not via mail or phone. THe FBI’s site only indicates that buying ticking via the main or telephone are illegal. It does not say anything about online. Please state your source regarding online lottery ticket purchases being illegal.

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  4. Hello,
    I’m confused as to why none of the lottery concierge sites haven’t responded to this article. This article clearly says that U.S players cannot play foreign lotteries online. Could one of the sites please respond to this.

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  5. I agree with yas. Thank you for the article Daisy, this answers my question. If I do use Lotter or Wintrillions, i’ll stick with USA lotteries only.

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  6. Hello…..this is an extremely important article that clarifies a lot of things. So, this means NO FOREIGN LOTTERIES for US citizens. Why does then very dependable sites like TheLotter.com do not clearly say that? Are they thinking that it won’t be there problem if you win? I would be happy to get answer from worldwide lotteries catered towards US citizens Great job for the article.

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    • Americans keep bragging how free their country is, the US Government is not worried about you losing money playing foreign lotteries, they are worried that you will win and go pick up your money and not come back loosing out on taxing you. Fact is, it is less free then ANY Other industrialized country. Americans are taxed no matter where they live and work, if you want to give up your American citizenship it will cost you $2000. They have less privacy than most European Countries when you open a bank account in the USA before you get out the front door the bank has already sold all your private info. Now they are putting in place new restrictions on how much money you can send your relatives in Cuba, and visiting restrictions, all designed to topple the Cuban Government, because it does not dance to the tune of the USA.

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