US lottery prize reaches record $1.1 billion

A customer buying Powerball lottery tickets in Bethesda, Maryland on Friday. The prize, which is currently worth US$800 million, is the largest in United States lottery history.
A customer buying Powerball lottery tickets in Bethesda, Maryland on Friday. The prize, which is currently worth US$800 million, is the largest in United States lottery history.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • The largest jackpot in United States lottery history has soared to a whopping US$800 million (S$1.1 billion), driven by excited punters dreaming of becoming millionaires in the draw which takes place today.

The Powerball prize skyrocketed from US$675 million in 24 hours as a staggering number of people bought tickets.

No winner claimed Wednesday's jackpot, which was worth half a billion dollars. With the jackpot, and excitement, mounting, long lines formed at stores selling lottery tickets, so the prize continued to grow.

In the Powerball lottery, five white balls are drawn from a drum of 69 balls, and one red one is pulled from a drum with 26. To win the jackpot, a person has to match all the numbers on the six balls selected.

The winner can choose to be paid the full jackpot in annual instalments over 29 years - or take a lower one-off payment in cash. The lump sum of today's prize would be US$496 million before federal taxes, the Multi-State Lottery Association said.

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

Madam Gloria Mackenzie, 84 and from Florida, won the largest single Powerball jackpot, US$590.5 million, on May 18, 2013.

The world's richest lottery is Spain's annual Christmas "El Gordo", which last year handed out 2.2 billion euros (S$3.5 billion). However, it caps individual wins at 400,000 euros and hands out thousands of smaller prizes.

Powerball is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2016, with the headline 'US lottery prize reaches record $1.1 billion'. Print Edition | Subscribe