At S$1.88 billion, US Powerball jackpot in world record territory

A customer holding his tickets for the Powerball lottery jackpot at a convenience store in Decatur, Georgia on Sunday.
A customer holding his tickets for the Powerball lottery jackpot at a convenience store in Decatur, Georgia on Sunday. PHOTO: EPA

CHICAGO (REUTERS) - With Powerball's jackpot now at US$1.3 billion (S$1.88 billion) and likely to surge higher by Wednesday's drawing, the US multi-state lottery is offering the world's richest grand prize that could go to a single ticketholder, officials said on Sunday (Jan 10).

The pot pushed higher when no ticket holder had the winning combination of six numbers selected during Saturday's drawing, when the grand prize reached nearly US$950 million.

"It's crazy how big this jackpot is," said Mr Alex Traverso, a spokesman for the California Lottery, confirming that the current Powerball prize was record setting. "Buckle up: It's going to be a crazy ride between now and Wednesday night."

California is one of 44 states, plus Washington DC and two US territories, that participate in Powerball.

There is an asterisk next to the "world's largest" status of Wednesday's jackpot, however.

While the US$1.3 billion is by far the largest ever up for grabs in North America, Spain's latest elGordo lottery, or "The Fat One", had a prize pool of US$2.4 billion prize. But it was awarded to thousands of ticketholders, elGordo's website said. Powerball's riches could go to a single ticketholder.

Powerball's grand prize has increased steadily for weeks after repeated drawings produced no big winners. Last week, ticket purchases surged, driving up the size of the pot.

That in turn has persuaded some Americans who normally shun lotteries to join the long lines of people buying tickets at retail stores across the country. The excitement is only expected to grow ahead of the next drawing.

The grand prize in Wednesday's drawing is worth US$806 million if a winner chooses an immediate cash payout instead of annual payments over 29 years, the Multi-State Lottery Association said on the Powerball website.

Before the current Powerball jackpot started to bound higher, the previous world record for a lottery prize that a single ticketholder was eligible to win was US$656 million in a 2012 Mega Millions drawing in the United States. That jackpot eventually went to three different ticketholders.