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Powerball ticket sales soar as the jackpot grows to $300 million

Rob Amen
| Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006

Somebody's gotta win.

Right?

Keep telling yourself that.

You have a better chance of dating supermodel Elle McPherson than winning tonight's estimated $300 million Powerball jackpot.

Yet more and more people continue to play.

Lottery outlets across the state were selling 84 Powerball tickets a second -- more than 5,000 a minute -- early Tuesday afternoon.

"I would expect that number to be higher (today)," said Steve Kniley, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue, which administers the Pennsylvania Lottery. "There's a whole universe of people who only play Powerball when it gets to a certain level."

The jackpot -- which the Multi-State Lottery Association says is the sixth-largest lottery prize in world history -- has been growing since Dec. 14. The estimated lump-sum payout for tonight's drawing is $145.7 million.

Powerball has reached the $300 million plateau only twice before -- in December 2002 and in October.

The Multi-State Lottery Association, which operates Powerball, boosted the starting jackpot size in August by adding two numbers to the first pool of the game. Players must correctly choose five numbers ranging from 1 to 55, up from the original 53.

The move allowed for larger second-place prizes but also reduced the odds of winning from 1 in 121 million to 1 in 146.1 million.

The odds of dating a supermodel, according to Gregory Baer, author of "Life: The Odds," are 1 in 88,000.

Still optimistic about winning the jackpot?

You have a 500-times greater chance of being injured from your pajamas catching fire than you do winning the Powerball.

Ouch!

Still, the lottery keeps growing in popularity.

Ticket sales of all Pennsylvania Lottery games have increased by more than 10 percent each of the past three years and are expected to eclipse $2.8 billion by June, Kniley said

About 30 cents of every dollar spent on lottery tickets in the state go toward programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians, Kniley said.

"Somebody is going to win this (Powerball)," he said.

But not necessarily tonight.

Largest lottery jackpots :

1. $363 million, Big Game, May 2000

2. $340 million, Powerball, October 2005

3. $331 million, Big Game, April 2002

4. $315 million, Mega Millions, November 2005

5. $314.9 million, Powerball, December 2002

6. $300 million, Powerball, tonight

7. $295.7 million, Powerball, July 1998

8. $295 million, Powerball, August 2001

9. $294 million, Mega Millions, July 2004

10. $261.3 million, Powerball, July 2003

Longest odds

Chance of being:

Powerball jackpot winner: 1 in 146.1 million

Injured by a venomous snake: 1 in 1.2 million

Injured by fireworks: 1 in 745,000

Struck by lightning: 1 in 700,000

Injured by ignition or melting of nightwear: 1 in 286,500

Bitten by dog: 1 in 207,000

Supermodel's date: 1 in 88,000

Sources: National Weather Service; "Life: The Odds" by Gregory Baer; National Safety Council

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