The estimated jackpot for Saturday's Powerball drawing has swelled to a record $600 million for the popular lottery game, but one official estimated today that if it goes unclaimed the prize would zoom to nearly $1 billion.
The biggest lottery jackpot ever was $656 million for the Mega Millions drawing on March 30, 2012. The previous record for a Powerball jackpot was $587.5 million on Nov. 28, 2012.
The jackpot soared to $600 million after no one won Wednesday's drawing. That would translate into a lump sum payment of $376.9 milliion.
The pot is expected to keep growing tonight and Saturday as the bonanza attracts even more people to take a chance. Tickets for Saturday's drawing can be purchased until 9 p.m. ET Saturday.
If no one matches all five numbers plus the Powerball on Saturday, the jackpot will continue to grow. Kelly Cripe, media director for the Texas Lottery, which is one of the states in the Powerball lottery, said the next drawing would be May 22 and estimated the pot would be at least an astonishing $925 million. The frenzy of such a massive jackpot would likely push it even higher.
Carolyn Hapeman, spokeswoman for the New York lottery said as of mid-day on Friday, the Empire State was selling over 600,000 tickets an hour.
Part of the boost in ticket sales is the addition of California in April to the list of states that participate in the Powerball game. The lottery game is now played in 43 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"Now you have another 11 million people with the addition of California. You've got all these players, maybe some for the first time because of the extreme nature of the jackpot, the largest ever for this particular game," Hapeman said.
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This current jackpot began rolling on April 3 with a mere $40 million jackpot, but has grown as no winner has emerged in several drawings.
Hapeman also attributes the growing popularity of the game to its makeover last year in celebration of its 20th anniversary. That's when the jackpot increased to $40 million from $20 million and the second prize, which requires just five matching numbers, jumped to $1 million from $250,000.
The odds of winning the grand prize are one in 175,223,510, according to the Powerball website. The odds of winning the second prize are one in 5,153,632.65.
With the "brisk sales," Hapeman encouraged New Yorkers not to wait until the last minute if they choose to participate.
For the $578.5 million jackpot last November, lines formed around the block in New York City.
"Don't be one of those last people. Or if there's an office pool, don't be the guy that doesn't get in," she said.
Because Hapeman works for the state lottery, she isn't eligible to participate.
"I want to, but I can't," she said.