The Powerball lottery jackpot inched closer to the $1 billion mark on Friday, hitting $800 million.
The record jackpot, if it remained at the current level, would be paid out as a $496 million lump sum or the full amount in annual payments over 30 years, both before taxes, for one lucky winner or winners.
Lottery sales are skyrocketing as people across the country take a highly improbable shot at winning this heap.
Virginia expects to sell 6.9 million Powerball tickets on Saturday alone, said John Hagerty, a spokesman for the Virginia Lottery. During peak times Saturday, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., the commonwealth probably will sell tickets at a rate of 13,800 per minute, Hagerty said.
Maryland sold nearly $2.5 million worth of Powerball tickets Thursday and $6.1 million Wednesday — the day of the most recent drawing. The District sold $565,000 worth through 5 p.m. Friday, DC Lottery officials said.
“This is unchartered territory,” Hagerty said. “We have never had a jackpot this high.”
Jeffrey Miecznikowski, a statistics professor for the State University of New York at Buffalo, warned that the odds of winning are extremely low.
“I personally wouldn’t recommend buying a ticket,” he said. “I think it’s a waste of time that could go toward something else.”
The chance of winning this jackpot is about 1 in 292 million, representing the number of possible number combinations.
Miecznikowski, however, says there is a much better chance of winning a Powerball jackpot than filling out a perfect college basketball March Madness bracket.
“If you want to feel hopeful, then think about the NCAA bracket,” he said. “It’s about 500 times more difficult to fill out a winning bracket than win the Powerball, so that’s the good news.”
Alfreda Adgerson, a 67-year-old retired government worker who purchased a ticket before Wednesday’s drawing and another on Friday, has plans in place if she wins.
“I’ve never played Powerball before because I thought I could never win and it was a waste of time,” she said.“If I win, I would take care of my family and then go to an island and think about what I would do with the rest.”