Powerball at an estimated $600 million as jackpot continues to grow

The Powerball jackpot soared to an estimated $600 million — the third largest lottery in history — as dreamers in all but the seven states where the game isn’t played snatched up tickets for the minuscule change at a life on easy street.

Officials expect the jackpot to keep growing before Saturday’s drawing that could break Powerball’s November 2012 record of $587.5 million.

Thursday’s announcement by the Iowa-based Multi-State Lottery Association means ticket sales have soared since Wednesday night’s drawing for an estimated $360 million jackpot, in which no one picked all six numbers correctly.

Sales jumped by $260 million in the days before November’s biggest Powerball jackpot win. And Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said it’s possible that Saturday’s could end up eclipsing that amount.

Lottery officials expect jackpot totals of this size to continue to climb in shorter amounts of time, thanks in part to a game redesign in January 2012 that increased the odds of winning some kind of prize, but also lowered the possible number combinations to win the Powerball.

There’s also “cross-selling” of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets — states being able to sell both Powerball tickets and Mega Millions tickets — that began in January 2010. As a result, large jackpots will continue to surpass all-time jackpot records set years ago, said Neubauer.

“It usually took a handful of months, if not several months, for a jackpot to reach this large amount,” she said. “Now it’s achieving that within a handful of weeks. I think the redesign is achieving exactly what we had wanted it to achieve, which is the bigger, faster-growing jackpot.”

The redesign means players don’t necessarily have to strike big to get lucky. A $1 increase and new $1 million and $2 million prizes means the odds of winning something have increased. On Wednesday, $1 million prizes were won in 16 states, and $2 million prizes were won in two states.

In fact, more than half of the all-time jackpot records have been reached in the last three years. The top two all-time jackpots — $656 million from a Mega Millions jackpot and $587.5 million from a Powerball jackpot — were achieved in 2012.

The last major jackpot win came when a New Jersey man won a $338.3 million jackpot on March 23. It is now considered the fourth largest Powerball jackpot in history.

“If there was no chance, you wouldn’t do it,” said New Jersey attorney Rubin Sinins, who represented five construction workers who claimed a colleague cheated them out of a share of a multimillion-dollar lottery jackpot.

It seems simple enough: Just correctly pick five white balls out of a drum of 59 and one red one out of a drum of 35.

However, the odds of a single $2 ticket hitting the correct combination are about 1 in 175.2 million. That’s slightly less likely than randomly drawing the name of one specific female in the United States: 1 in 157 million, according to the last census.

With such an astronomic payoff available for the lucky ticket holder, some buyers are content to settle for just a share of the winnings.

In Houston, city firefighter John Paetow and a dozen of his colleagues kicked in $10 each for the drawing, as they do occasionally when a the stakes soar into the lottery stratosphere.

“With firemen it’s a camaraderie thing,” said Paetow, 59. “It just makes sense to pool our money; it buys more tickets, gives us a better chance of winning.”

A major reason for the sales surge is that last month, Powerball landed the nation’s most populous state as California joined 42 others that offer the game. California lottery director Robert O’Neill said the state had brought “sunshine and good fortune” to Powerball.

The Multi-State Lottery Association conducts the drawing live Saturday night from Tallahassee, Fla. The balls are weighed and X-rayed, and there are practice runs before the official televised version.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Via: Fox News

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