Courtesy of USA Today
Looking for a big payday? Dueling Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots are giving many in the USA two chances to strike it rich Friday and Saturday.
“When you consider all the money that’s going to be on the line in the next few days with lottery drawings, it’s just an eye-popping amount,” says Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for Iowa Lottery.
The Powerball jackpot has soared to about $550 million before Saturday’s drawing after no tickets matched the winning numbers of Wednesday’s drawing. Rival Mega Millions’ grand prize, at $190 million, could climb higher before Friday’s drawing. No tickets matched all of Wednesday’s Powerball numbers: 2, 11, 26, 34, 41 and a Powerball of 32.
“This is the point where people who don’t normally play or maybe even aren’t familiar with the lottery go out and buy a ticket,” says Andi Brancato, director of public relations for the Michigan Lottery.
Sales are highest the day of the drawing, and Brancato said to expect peak sales Friday as people stop to pick up a ticket on their way home from work and all day Saturday as people are out and about running errands.
Virginia expects to sell 4.7 million Powerball tickets on Saturday alone, at a rate of 9,500 tickets per minute during peak times, says John Hagerty, Virginia Lottery spokesman.
California, which started selling Powerball tickets at the beginning of April, expects “full-blown lotto fever,” says Greg Parashak, spokesman for the California Lottery. The state expects long lines before both lottery drawings and anticipates a lot of residents picking up both Mega Millions and Powerball tickets, he said.
“We’ve just been on this for a little over a month, so it’s pretty safe to say we expect record sales between now and Saturday,” Parashak said.
A single Powerball ticket costs $2, while a Mega Millions ticket costs $1. A jackpot of $550 million ranks as the second largest in Powerball history and third biggest overall.
Both lotteries hit records in 2012, with a $587.5 million Powerball payout in November and a $656 million Mega Millions payout in March. The games are played in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The odds of winning the top jackpot prize in either game are one in 175 million.
In Asheville, N.C., Mike Dunlap knows exactly what he would do if he won $550 million.
“I’ll assure you, if I win the lottery, I’ll quit selling crackers,” said Dunlap, a businessman who sells for Snyder’s-Lance.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to win the top prize Friday or Saturday, you could get another chance soon: Large jackpots are increasingly common.
“Powerball was redesigned to have larger jackpots more often, but it was also redesigned to create lots of millionaires, and it’s succeeding on both levels,” says Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association.
That redesign helped to increase the odds of winning any single prize and lowered the possible number of combinations to win the Powerball.
“(People) are interested in a big jackpot and a big number, and when it can get to that number very fast, the interest continues to grow,” Brancato said.
Players should check their tickets to see if they’ve won one of the lesser prizes — which could be as high as $1 million or $2 million, Strutt says.
“Even if you don’t win the jackpot, you may have a winning ticket,” Brancato says.