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$425M Powerball jackpot lures millions to play

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By USA Today
Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, 8:10 p.m.

The Powerball jackpot has grown to a record $425 million, sending millions of Americans to supermarkets, shops, gas stations and other outlets to buy lottery tickets before Wednesday's drawing.

None of the $2 tickets matched the winning numbers in a drawing of the multistate game on Saturday night, when the jackpot was an estimated $325 million.

The estimated $425 million up for grabs in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands could get bigger if sales boom before the drawing.

Americans' rush to buy tickets is “no surprise,” because such a large jackpot causes “a lot of excitement,” said Ed Van Petten, executive director of the Minnesota State Lottery.

“It's a fairly cheap purchase, and people see winning the large jackpot as a dream that could come true,” said Van Petten, who expects up to 2 million people — about 40 percent of the state's population — to spend, together, about $4 million buying Powerball tickets by Wednesday.

The previous top Powerball windfall — claimed by eight employees of a Nebraska meat-packing plant — was $365 million in 2006.

The biggest payout was $656 million — shared by three winning tickets in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland — in a March Mega Millions drawing.

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot: 1 in 175 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. All profits from Powerball games are kept by the state that sells the ticket, the association said.

Sales for Wednesday's Powerball drawing “will be crazy,” said Chuck Baumann, a spokesman for the Oregon Lottery. “Any time it's a record payout, we will start seeing lines at a customer service or self-service ticket terminals.”

Since Oct. 6, the start of the roll-up to Wednesday's $425 million jackpot, Powerball sales in New York have exceeded $76.7 million, said Carolyn Hapeman, a spokeswoman for the New York Lottery.

Kimberly Chopin, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Lottery, said Powerball sales in the state on one day — Saturday — were $2.1 million.

In Connecticut on Sunday, lottery enthusiasts arrived in the wee hours of the morning to check the winning numbers in Saturday's drawing and, after learning there was no winner, began buying tickets for Wednesday's bigger jackpot.

Ticket buyers arrived just after 6:30 a.m. when the Dodgingtown Market in Dodgingtown, Conn., opened, store manager Joey Bajon said.

John Bergquist, another manager at the store, said many customers buy 10 to 20 tickets for big jackpots. Big jackpots also attract some “who don't even know what they're doing” and need instructions on how to play Powerball, he said.

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