Record jackpot tops $1.3 billion as lottery fever grips the US

Pete Gagliano of Alabama shows the tickets he purchased for the multi-state Powerball lottery.
Pete Gagliano of Alabama shows the tickets he purchased for the multi-state Powerball lottery.PHOTO: EPA

NEW YORK (AFP) - The largest jackpot in US lottery history has climbed again, to a massive US$900 million (S$1.3 billion), as Americans dreaming of a life-changing windfall counted down the hours to Saturday's eagerly anticipated draw.

The United States is in the grip of lottery fever, with long queues forming outside lottery-ticket vendors - driving up the jackpot ever more - and Americans debating what they would do with such fabulous winnings.

The Powerball prize skyrocketed from US$800 million on Friday, as the excitement built.

The lucky winner will take home an estimated US$558 million if they choose a lump-sum cash prize, lottery officials said.

In the Powerball lottery, which takes place each Wednesday and Saturday at 10.59pm (11.59am Singapore time), five white balls are drawn from a drum containing 69 balls, and one red one is pulled from a drum with 26.

To win the jackpot, a ticket holder has to match all the numbers on the six balls selected. The winner can choose to be paid the full jackpot in annual installments over 29 years - or take a lower one-off payment in cash.

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