(Reuters) - The jackpot for the Powerball lottery soared on Tuesday to a record $500 million and could increase again by the time the winning numbers are drawn on Wednesday, a lottery official said.
The payout jumped nearly $175 million due to brisk ticket sales after no one won the top prize in Saturday's drawing, said Mary Neubauer, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, where Powerball is based.
"It really gets into uncharted territory at this point," she said on Tuesday. "Sales across the country are just through the roof. It means lots of people are having fun with this, but it makes it difficult to keep up with the (jackpot) estimate."
The next drawing will be held on Wednesday night. Powerball has not had a winner for two months.
The potential windfall has drawn interest from around the world, Neubauer said. Lottery officials have received calls and emails from people outside the United States asking if they can buy a ticket from afar.
"No, that's not possible," said Neubauer, adding tickets must be purchased in one of the participating 42 states, the District of Columbia or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The previous top Powerball prize of $365 million was won in 2006 by ConAgra slaughterhouse workers in Nebraska.
In March, three winning tickets shared the largest U.S. lottery jackpot, the $656 million Mega Millions drawing.
Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Jackie Frank