With no winner since Christmas, US Powerball lottery hits $504m

A man walks by a sign advertising Virginia's $400 million Powerball lottery in Arlington, Virginia, on Feb 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A man walks by a sign advertising Virginia's $400 million Powerball lottery in Arlington, Virginia, on Feb 19, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Powerball ticket buyers lined up at corner groceries and gas stations on Wednesday with visions of hitting the $400 million jackpot in the United States (US) lottery that hasn't had a top prize winner since Christmas.

The drawing scheduled for 10.59pm EST on Wednesday (11.59am, Thursday, Singapore time) is a chance to win the sixth-largest prize in US lottery history and the fourth-largest for Powerball, according to a spokesperson for the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs the game.

The top prize amount has been swelling since the last jackpot on Christmas Day, and it has rolled over 15 times and increased in value after each drawing since then, said Carolyn Hapeman, Powerball spokeswoman in New York.

Most recently, there was no winner in Saturday's US$330 million (S$416 million) prize, which grew to a US$400 million jackpot for Wednesday night's drawing.

If the winner opts to take Wednesday night's prize as a lump sum, it would amount to US$227.8 million, the website said.

In the last two years, Powerball prizes have increased considerably, due to ticket prices doubling, from US$1 to US$2, and California, the nation's most populous state, joining 42 other states, Washington and the US Virgin Islands in playing the game.

The chance of claiming the jackpot is one in 175 million, regardless of how many tickets a person buys.

The biggest winner in the history of Powerball took home US$590 million before taxes after purchasing a winning ticket in May 2013 in Florida.

The Powerball website said the average jackpot winnings are roughly US$255 million and about 70 per cent of winners buy their tickets with computer generated numbers.

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