Who wants to be a billionaire? Powerball hits $1.5 bn, largest-ever lottery jackpot for one winner

Record sales drove up the largest jackpot in US history to a whopping $1.5 billion Tuesday as people dreaming of riches flocked across state lines and international borders to buy tickets.

Whoa! Who'll be the lucky one? / Reuters

Whoa! Who'll be the lucky one? / Reuters

Even after the taxman calls, the Powerball jackpot could make the lucky winner wealthier than the likes of British boy band One Direction, soccer star Lionel Messi, Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer and US superstar Beyonce.

You can then choose to be paid the full jackpot in annual installments for 29 years -- or take $930 million as a one-off payment -- before taxes.

Over time, you could buy two Airbus A380s -- the jumbo jet capable of carrying up to 853 passengers worth $420 million each, A.C. Milan football club valued at $775 million by Forbes or the Miami Marlins baseball team for $650 million.

In New York, office workers who queued up to buy tickets ahead of Wednesday night's TV draw at 10:59 pm had more pedestrian shopping lists on their mind.

"The whole building's putting in two bucks, so we're all going to party down in the Caribbean and split the money," joked Mark Ferro, who works for a property management company.

"I'm going to buy a nice big house on an island," said his colleague John, an engineer who did not want to give his second name. The rest? He'll give away to friends, family and charity.

The odds of winning are one in 292 million -- so remote that you are 246 times more likely to be hit by lightning, according to The New York Times, but punters refused to indulge the killjoy tone.

"Everybody at work is just dreaming out loud and I actually said this morning I wonder how many offices are having the same conversation," said Marlene Rijo, 31, who works for a general contractor.

To win, a ticket holder has to match all numbers on six balls selected -- five white balls from a drum containing 69 balls, and one red one pulled from a drum with 26.

The last draw on Saturday netted prizes worth more than $159 million -- including 25 who won $1 million each and three people who won $2 million each.

Since the last jackpot win on November 4, more than $1.75 billion worth of Powerball tickets have been bought, Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery and chair of the Powerball game group, told AFP.

- Fun is dreaming

"Sales are doing exponentially more than we've ever done before," Grief said, unable to rule out that the jackpot would not rise further.

"I'm hearing anecdotally and through news outlets, millions of people who have never played Powerball before are indeed purchasing a ticket," he added.

Some retailers scoring the biggest sales are in states bordering the handful that do not participate in the game, he said.

"People are flocking over from those states to stand in line and buy lottery tickets," he said. "You do not have to be a citizen of the US -- people are coming from Mexico and Canada to purchase tickets," he added.

But Grief sounded a note of caution.

"We want people to play responsibly. This is not a game to put your life savings on, your retirement on," he said. "A big part of the fun is putting down your $2 and then dreaming."

The lottery anticipates that 85 percent of all possible combinations will be wagered on so there is an 85 percent likelihood of a jackpot winner on Wednesday night, he said.

Fifty percent of every dollar spent on Powerball goes back to players in the form of prizes, 40 percent goes to good causes and 10 percent is split between the more than 200,000 retailers who sell tickets and cover administrative costs.

In Texas, Grief said Powerball sales would mean the lottery would donate $60 million in extra funds to public education.

The previous US jackpot record of $656 million, on March 30, 2012, was scooped by three winners from North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Texas.

Forty-four US states take part in the Powerball along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

The world's richest lottery is Spain's annual Christmas "El Gordo," which in 2015 handed out 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) but which capped individual wins at 400,000 euros and handed out thousands of smaller prizes.


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Updated Date: Jan 13, 2016 02:54:13 IST

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