LOS ANGELES • Three winning tickets shared a US$1.6 billion (S$2.3 billion) prize in the US Powerball lottery on Wednesday, after millions of people tuned in to find out the fate of the world-record jackpot live on TV.
The winning numbers were 4, 8, 19, 27 and 34, with 10 as the so-called Powerball number. Each of the three winning tickets is worth US$528.8 million, the California Lottery said.
Lottery fever gripped the United States, with people forming long lines outside stores to buy tickets and then frantically checking their US$2 slips to see if they had hit the mammoth jackpot.
"It's official! There were three jackpot-winning tickets in tonight's Powerball draw: California, Florida & Tennessee," the California Lottery tweeted.
Local television showed swarms of people, many cheering and chanting, descending on the Los Angeles convenience store where the California ticket was sold. The jackpot, which had stood at US$1.5 billion for much of the day, eventually crept up to nearly US$1.6 billion.
The winners can choose to be paid their share of the jackpot in annual instalments for 29 years or take a one-off payment. The odds of winning were at least one in 292 million.
The winners can choose to be paid their share of the jackpot in annual instalments for 29 years or take a one-off payment. The odds of winning were at least one in 292 million. Despite that, shops all over the US did a roaring trade in frenzied last-minute ticket sales in the final hours before the live draw.
Office workers dashed out between meetings to buy tickets, fantasising about what they would do with the winnings, and commuters in New York joked about scooping the jackpot to save them from the gloomy deep freeze of winter.
For days, the talk of the nation, from coast to coast, and even from Canada to Mexico, was whether someone would finally win the first Powerball in two months and, if one were to win, how would one spend such a whopping jackpot?
Lottery executives say ticket sales reached record levels, generating more than US$1 million an hour in Texas alone in the final build-up to the draw. Wednesday's jackpot started at US$40 million on Nov 7 and was the result of 20 draws with no overall winner.
"(We) are doing exponentially more (sales) than we've ever done before," Mr Gary Grief, chairman of the Powerball game group, said on Tuesday. "I'm hearing anecdotally and through news outlets, millions of people who have never played Powerball before are indeed purchasing a ticket."
The lottery had anticipated that 85 per cent of all possible combinations would be wagered on, so there was an 85 per cent likelihood of a jackpot winner on Wednesday night.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS