Powerball Fever Sweeps the Nation as $500M Drawing Nears

As Powerball fever sweeps the nation this week, millions of people are anxiously waiting in long lines at gas stations and grocery stores, eager to buy what they hope will be the golden ticket. Only six numbers stand in the way, some believe, of a chance at financial freedom.

Tonight’s massive Powerball jackpot, now estimated at a historic $500 million, promises to be a real game changer for one or more lucky winners. Winning half a billion dollars could mean an early retirement, an opportunity to pay off debt, a college education and a chance for world travel. Millions of dollars would allow someone a chance to invest in the market, a business or even support a favorite charity.

Powerball Sales Set Record

Powerball sales, which are limited to 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have reached the second-biggest jackpot ever today. In March, three ticket holders split the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot.

While the odds of picking the six winning Powerball numbers are slim, just 1 in 175 million, millions of Americans are willing to pay the $2 per ticket for a chance at Lady Luck. Over the past 20 years, there have been almost 300 jackpot winners, bringing home payouts of more than $11 billion.

Lottery officials explain that tonight’s jackpot is so large because Powerball has not had a winner since Oct. 6, which has allowed the pot to grow by nearly $175 million. This evening’s drawing could result in either an estimated $500 million paid out over three decades in an annuity or a lump sum of nearly $328 million.

According to ABC News, Powerball officials said more than 105,000 tickets are expected to be sold every minute prior to the drawing, totaling more than 189 million tickets for one drawing. This is more than twice the number of tickets sold for Saturday’s $325 Powerball jackpot, which did not have a winner.

During a 30-minute period during the middle of the day Tuesday, for example, the Illinois Lottery sold more than $200,000 in Powerball tickets. Colorado officials said sales had increased more than 90 percent from one week ago.

Lottery Prize Grows as Sales Increase

Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association (MSLA), said typically 50 percent of lottery ticket sales occur the day of the drawing. Because the ticket sales were so high Sunday and Monday, the MSLA chose to increase the Powerball jackpot from the already record $435 million to an estimated $500 million. The jackpot may in fact be higher by tonight, as ticket sales drive the final award. Strutt said he anticipates ticket sales will average 6.3 million per hour.

According to the Associated Press, Powerball ticket sales originally dropped back in January when the price was doubled to $2, but sales revenue has increased approximately 35 percent over 2011.

Odds of Winning Remain the Same

Record Powerball ticket sales have created some concern whether the odds of winning have changed. Mathematicians reassure people the odds of winning are not affected by the number of people purchasing tickets, however, it does mean there is an increased chance the jackpot will be split by more than one winner.

After 16 consecutive drawings without a winner, Strutt said the chance of having a winner tonight is close to 60 percent. Sales will cease an hour before the 11:00 p.m. ET drawing at the Powerball studios in Tallahassee, Fla., tonight.

Participants Reminded to Not Go Overboard

Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson, along with lottery officials from other states, is reminding Americans who participate in the Powerball lottery frenzy to play responsibly. Since the lottery will only pay out to the individual who signed the ticket and presents it for payment, Anderson recommends players sign their tickets at time of purchase and keep them in a safe place until the drawing.

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

Powerball frenzy

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    Sources:

    1. Strauss, G. (2012, November 28). Wednesday's Powerball a $500 million (or more) payoff. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/27/powerball--jackpot-500-million/1729615/
    2. Associated Press and Reuters. (2012, November 28). Chicago Tribune. Retrieved by http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-powerball-jackpot-20121128,0,578301.story
    3. Castellano, A. (2012, November 28). Powerball Fever Sweeps the Nation, Fuels $500 Million Jackpot. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/powerball-fever-sweeps-nation-fuels-500-million-jackpot/story?id=17824498#.ULYg4-Ton84