Historic $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot sparks ticket-buying frenzy

Wed Jan 13, 2016 5:49pm EST
 
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Dreams of quitting an uninspiring job, helping the needy and traveling the world opened American wallets on Wednesday for a chance to win the biggest-ever $1.5 billion Powerball lottery jackpot.

The frenzy to buy tickets was expected to push the largest-ever U.S. lottery prize even higher by the time the six winning numbers are picked at the drawing at 10:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday at lottery offices in Tallahassee, Florida. It is the world's largest potential prize for a single winner.

The jackpot is worth nearly $930 million if a winner chooses an immediate cash payout instead of annual payments over 29 years, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. Powerball is played in 44 states, Washington, D.C. and two U.S. territories.

It may take several hours to determine if anyone has picked the six winning numbers, said Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas lottery, at a news conference.

If no one holds the winning numbers, the jackpot will be rolled over for Saturday's drawing, pushing the annuitized prize to an estimated $2 billion, with a cash value of $1.24 billion, said Kelly Cripe, spokeswoman for the lottery in Texas, one of the participating states.

"If I win, I'll give it all away to poor people," said New York restaurant deliveryman Osman Gamie, 43, after buying a dozen of the $2 tickets at a midtown Manhattan grocery.

"I don't like to live like the rich man - too many headaches," said Gamie, a new U.S. citizen from Bangladesh.

The ticket-buying mania was expected to reach a rate of $1.3 million per minute during the evening commuter rush hour, Grief said.   Continued...

 
A handwritten sign is seen taped over electronic numbers on a Powerball sign at a corner store in San Diego, California January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake