DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ticket sales for the multi-state Powerball lottery soared Saturday as people dreamed of winning the largest jackpot in U.S. history which grew by $100 million to hit $900 million just hours before Saturday night's drawing.
People across the U.S. dreamed about what they'd do with the winning ticket, and could still be thinking big in the coming days. If no one matches all the numbers, the next drawing, on Wednesday, is expected to soar to $1.3 billion.
The U.S. saw sales of $277 million on Friday alone and more than $400 million in tickets are expected to be sold Saturday, according to Gary Grief, the executive director of the Texas Lottery.
The frenzy was real Saturday afternoon at a newsstand in New York City's Penn Station, where cashier Setara Begum said she was exhausted from taking about $10,000 worth of orders that ranged from a single $2 ticket to one man buying $500 worth of tickets.
"I'm going crazy! I can't take it anymore!" she said, burying her face in her hands but giggling uncontrollably as she turned to a lineup of customers. Another employee stood at the entrance offering $10 worth of tickets on one page.
Scott Edwards was making the most of his chances, playing in three different groups of eight New Yorkers, a $20 buy-in per group.
"I guess eight is going to break the money down a lot," said the 55-year-old, whose groups include Madison Square Garden, where he monitors security for deliveries, the truck drivers delivering those goods and the third in his Brooklyn neighborhood.
Since Nov. 4, the Powerball jackpot has grown from its $40 million starting point as no one has won the jackpot. This kind of huge jackpot was just what officials with the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the Powerball game, hoped for last fall when they changed the odds of matching all the Powerball numbers, from about one in 175 million to one in 292.2 million. By making it harder to win a jackpot, the tougher odds made the ever-larger prizes inevitable.
The bigger prizes draw more players, who in turn make the jackpots even bigger.
Anndrea Smith, 30, of Omaha, Nebraska, has already spent more than she usually does on Powerball tickets.
"I bought four yesterday, and I usually never buy any," said Smith, manager of Bucky's gas station and convenience store in northwest Omaha. She's not alone, saying the store sold "about $5,000 worth of tickets yesterday. Usually on a Friday, we might sell $1,200 worth."
If she wins, her first purchase will be "a warm vacation," she said, as the temperature outside the store hovered in the single digits. "I'd share with family, too."
The chance of no one hitting all five initial numbers and the Powerball number is growing slimmer, Grief acknowledged.
"We anticipate that by the time sales close tonight, around 75 percent of all the combinations will be wagered on," he said.
The odds are a matter of statistics and probability, but they're facts that most players may not completely understand, said Ron Wasserstein, executive director of the Alexandria, Virginia-based American Statistical Association.
"Once you get numbers that size, it's hard for people to wrap their minds around them," Wasserstein said.