While Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots have grown in recent years, America's lottery system goes back a long time. Lotteries in colonial times helped finance some of America's roads, bridges, and schools like Harvard and Yale. Today, state-sponsored lotteries contribute millions state budgets, but some critics question how effective they actually are.
In October, an anonymous woman in South Carolina won the $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot. Jackpots have been on the rise since the two major lottery organizations, Mega Millions and Powerball, struck a deal to cross-sell tickets in each others' member states in 2010.