Powerball jackpot hits $500 million for Wednesday drawing

Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:11pm EST
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(Reuters) - The multi-state Powerball lottery jackpot reached the half-billion dollar mark after rolling over for nearly three months into Wednesday night's drawing, the Powerball website showed.

The estimated $500 million jackpot was the third-largest in the game's history and one of the largest lottery jackpots ever in the United States.

Gamblers could select an estimated lump-sum cash payout of $337.8 million if they match all six numbers correctly or opt to take annuity payments over 29 years, before taxes.

The last winner, a Washington woman, told lottery officials she purchased the winning $90 million ticket on Thanksgiving Day and had never bought a Powerball ticket before.

Jackpots start at $40 million and grow until at least one player comes up with the winning numbers. Drawings are made on Wednesday and Saturday nights and tickets cost $2 each. The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are one in 175 million.

The biggest Powerball jackpot awarded by the Multi-State Lottery Association was $590.5 million in May 2013 to the holder of a single winning ticket. The association's Mega Millions lottery awarded a top prize of $656 million three years ago.

Powerball tickets are sold in 44 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The drawing is at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Time and most participating states sell tickets until an hour before the drawing.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by David Gregorio)

A Powerball Lottery is shown in this photo illustration after being purchased at a gas station in San Diego, California, February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake