The Powerball lottery jackpot has already jumped to $700 million. Could it reach $1 billion?
By midday Thursday, lottery officials said the new high came as sales of tickets continue to skyrocket. The new jackpot translates into a $428.4 million lump sum, before taxes, for a potential winner or winners.
In Virginia, lottery officials said that during peak times through Saturday they expect to sell $21,600 worth of Powerball tickets a minute. Lottery officials in Maryland said the jackpot could grow before Saturday’s 11 p.m. drawing.
“This is just one of those rare times when everybody is talking about the Powerball jackpot,” said Gordon Medenica, director of the Maryland Lottery.
Maryland officials reported selling $6 million worth of tickets Wednesday. At the peak that evening, ticket sales hit $800,000 in one hour. Sales in the District hit a high of $87,000 an hour.
Could the big prize become a $1 billion jackpot?
“We could be on the verge of creating the first lottery billionaire,” Medenica said. “This is uncharted territory. This has never happened.”
Because no one won Wednesday night’s drawing, it has rolled over and grown bigger. That comes after no one won last weekend’s drawing. Wednesday’s numbers were 2, 11, 47, 62 and 63, and the Powerball was 17.
Carole Everett, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Lottery division, said Thursday that there is no limit on how many times the jackpot can roll over.
It just keeps going until “someone hits” it, she said.
Sales of lottery tickets have surged across the country as dreamers take a shot at the jackpot. About $352 million worth of Powerball tickets were sold between this past Saturday’s drawing and Wednesday’s drawing.
“As it gets bigger and bigger, more people are playing,” Everett said.
One of the most recent large Powerball jackpots was for $590.5 million. It was won in 2013 by Gloria MacKenzie, an 84-year-old Florida woman. She took a lump-sum cash payment of $370 million before taxes. Another large jackpot was a Mega Millions drawing in 2012, which was a $656 million win split three ways, according to lottery officials. Members of one of the winning groups dubbed themselves the “Three Amigos” and were from Maryland.
And what’s the magic to winning the big jackpot?
“It’s just the luck of the draw,” Everett said.
The jackpot of $700 million is an estimated value based on annual 30-year payments, although most lottery winners opt for the smaller lump-sum payout. Factor in federal taxes, and Maryland officials estimate such a payout would result in about $284 million.
On Wednesday, about a dozen people won either $1 million or $2 million prizes. The winners were in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington state.
Realistically, the chances of winning the big jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million, according to lottery officials.
In fact, a person is more likely to get struck by lightning or bitten by a shark than win the lottery. On average, the chances of being struck by lightning are 1 in 3,000 during an average lifetime. And the chances of being bitten by a shark are less than 1 in 264.1 million.
Powerball is played in 44 states, as well as the District, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Even after a winner is picked, the rest of the world doesn’t always have to know the person’s identity. Six states — Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina — allow lottery winners to remain anonymous.