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The game is played in Washington and 42 other states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, so Thursday's jackpot estimate of $600 million could rise because of added player interest.
If Saturday night's jackpot is won by a single holder of a $2 ticket, the winner will get at least $550 million less federal tax in a 29-year annuity or take a lump-sum prize estimated pre-tax at $376.9 million, Powerball officials said.
The other multistate lotto played in Washington state, Mega Millions, offers a $190 million jackpot tonight to a sole $1 ticket holder with all six winning numbers. The lump-sum payout is estimated at $140 million, lottery officials said.
Here's the latest from The Associated Press:
DES MOINES, Iowa — Saturday's whopping $550 million Powerball jackpot just got even bigger: a record $600 million.
For those opting for one-time cash payment, that's worth a pre-tax $376.9 million.
Surging ticket sales prompted the Multi-State Lottery Association to boost the Powerball jackpot today, hours ahead of tonight's drawing for rival Mega Millions lottery, which has a $190 million jackpot. State lottery officials say the combined $790 million jackpots are the biggest ever for a weekend lottery.
Although the odds of winning either jackpot are 1 in 175 million, Powerball and Mega Millions are getting plenty of dreamers.
"This is beyond water cooler talk,'' says Iowa Lottery spokeswoman Mary Neubauer. "Everyone wants a shot at it. When jackpots get to this level, we see sales three to four times normal. The universe of players expands to occasional players and a lot of first-timers jumping in."
The previous Powerball jackpot record: November 2012's $587.5 million. That prize was split three ways with winning tickets Illinois, Kansas and Maryland. Mega Millions hit a record $656 million last March.
This week's swelling jackpot has prompted a frenzy in some states, including California, which just began offering Powerball tickets in April. Overall, the state now accounts for about 11 percent of the game's national sales.
California's biggest ticket-seller is the Primm Valley Lotto Store, which straddles the state line in tiny Nipton, a 19th century mining and ranching town on the edge of the Mojave desert.
"It's crazy," said Roxie Handley, manager of the Nipton Trading Post. "Last night, I heard some people had to wait nine hours in line."
Nipton, is 35 miles from Las Vegas. Residents of the nation's No. 1 gambling state don't have access to the lottery because the state's constitution prohibits them because they are seen as competition to the casino industry.
Norma Wagoner was among the Nevadans trying their luck. She and a group of friends pooled their money to buy 20 tickets and sent one over the state border to endure the long lines.
"Everybody has dreams," she said. "All it takes is one ticket."