US lottery Powerball jackpot nears record $750m

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Lottery fever gripped the United States (US) on Friday as the Powerball jackpot hit a record US$600 million (S$750 million) thanks to a coast-to-coast ticket-buying frenzy by wannabe instant millionaires.

In a statement, the Iowa state lottery agency said the jackpot - played in 43 states - now is "the largest in the 21-year history of the game" as well as the second-largest in world lottery history.

"Strong sales across the country are the reason the prize is taking big jumps now," it said - particularly after Wednesday's drawing, when the jackpot stood at US$363.9 million, failed to come up with a winner.

Indeed, the last time anyone hit the jackpot was March 30.

The fact that Californians since April 7 can play Powerball - a choice of five numbers from a pool of 59, plus a Powerball number from a separate pool of 35 - is also credited with robust sales of the US$2 tickets.

The richest US jackpot of all time was US$656 million, won in a Mega Millions drawing in March 2012 and split between three tickets in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland.

Like all US lotteries, the winnings are subject to tax.