TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians joined the U.S. frenzy for the Powerball lottery jackpot on Wednesday, crossing the border to buy tickets in droves and lining up outside one Toronto bakery where tickets are being given away for a long shot at the $1.5 billion payout.
The Powerball jackpot has been growing ever since the last winner was drawn in November and is now the largest-ever U.S. lottery prize as well as the world's biggest potential jackpot for a single winner.
"There are a lot of them coming over, a lot of them in the lineup," said Jim Murphy, an employee at the Wedge Discount Liquor Store in Niagara Falls, New York.
Murphy said most of the customers openly admit they are Canadian, while he could identify others by their vehicle license plates.
It is legal for tourists and non-U.S. residents to play the U.S. lottery.
A Canadian winner who does not live in the United States would be subject to a 30 percent U.S. withholding tax, plus possible state taxes. They would not face additional Canadian taxes.
A Canadian jackpot winner could expect to take home about C$1.5 billion ($1.05 billion) after taxes, though winnings are reduced if the money is taken in a lump sum.
Canadians have surged across the border to play the lottery while others implored U.S. friends to buy a ticket for them, local media reported.
U.S. comedian and talk show host Stephen Colbert joked that there will be consequences if a Canadian wins the Powerball.
"Because I promise you, if one of you moose-munching ice holes wins America's billion-dollar Powerball, Donald J. Trump will be elected president of the United States," he said on "The Late Show."
In Toronto, people lined up outside the World Class Bakery, which was giving away Powerball tickets to customers who spend at least C$20 ($14).
The bakery's promotion, in its fourth day, drew hundreds of customers and forced management to drive to Buffalo, New York, late on Tuesday to buy more tickets, owner Lisa Guluzian told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
"We've decided the baker's going to give away the dough," Guluzian told the public broadcaster. "I hope that someone from this group wins. We're going to take it all away from the Americans."
The Powerball lottery drawing will be held on Wednesday, and its payout is expected to increase due to strong ticket sales.
Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Leslie Adler