Lotto Fever Hits as Powerball Jackpot Grows

Lottery officials are seeing a nice bump in ticket sales these days thanks to some large, eye-catching jackpots.

The Powerball lottery game, played in more than 30 states, now has a jackpot of $245 million for Wednesday night's drawing. The other big multistate lottery Mega Millions now has an estimated jackpot of $170 million for Tuesday night's drawing.

Neither would be record prizes, but these eye-popping numbers are still a welcome sign to many, especially given a recession where unemployment is at a 26-year high and stock portfolios are still way off their prerecession highs.

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Lottery tickets are a so-called disposable income product. In bad times -- or, curiously enough, times of high gas prices -- lottery sales will often slump.

"We're fighting with other products on the market," said Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for the New York State Lottery, which did manage to eke out a profit this year.

Other states were not so lucky.

The Kansas Lottery reported a 2.6 percent drop in sales for the fiscal year that ended June 30. That translates to a $6 million decline in revenue. And in Oklahoma, sales are down about 2 percent from last year.

But luckily for states, both big multistate games have jackpots over $100 million.

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Brian Rockey, a spokesman with the Nebraska Lottery, said that in recent weeks he has seen spike in Powerball ticket sales, as well as the other lotto offerings.

"That is normal in our experience. Jackpot driven games like Powerball and our Nebraska Pick 5 game tend to buoy sales of our other three lotto games when their jackpots reach a certain level," Rockey said. "With Powerball, we see it start at about $100 million. Our research has found that about 30 percent of players wait to buy the game until the jackpot gets into the $70 to $80 million range."

Lottery, Powerball Searches

That interest seemed to be strong on the Internet this morning. Google -- which tracks popular search terms -- this morning had "lottery," "lotto" or "Powerball" in 14 of its top 100 rising searches. Kentucky residents in particular were heavy searchers.

So for anybody out there looking to strike it rich, here is what you need to know: Powerball now has an estimated $245 million jackpot, with a $122.6 million lump sum value, for its drawing Wednesday. Your odds of winning: 1 in 195,249,054. (Florida joined Powerball in January, which is also helping to push up the jackpot size.)

There have now been 14 Powerball drawings without a jackpot winner. The current streak without a big winner started July 1 when the jackpot was $20 million.

To win the top jackpot, you need to pick the five "base" numbers -- those range from 1 to 59 -- and the Powerball, which is a number ranging from 1 to 39. The odds of winning Powerball's biggest prize is 1 in 195 million.

There are eight other ways to win, and those are set prizes, including $3 for selecting the correct Powerball to $200,000 for picking the five base numbers. Tickets are $1.

And, in case you were wondering, the record Powerball jackpot was $365 million, won on Feb. 18, 2006, by workers at a ConAgra Food facility in Nebraska.

Mega Millions, which is played in 12 states, has an estimated $170 million jackpot, or a $106.1 million lump sum payment, for its drawing Tuesday. The odds of winning the jackpot are approximately one in 176 million. The odds of winning any of the Mega Millions prizes are approximately 1 in 40.

This jackpot has been growing since July 7, when Mega Millions had its most recent jackpot winner. The record Mega Millions jackpot was $390 million, won March 6, 2007.

With those odds, you might be better off putting that dollar into the stock market. Maybe.

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