Gary Strauss, USA TODAY
Wednesday's record Powerball jackpot will now be worth at least $500 million.
Based on soaring sales Sunday and Monday, lottery officials Tuesday decided to boost the Powerball jackpot from $425 million.
Lottery officials are expecting word of a half-billion dollar jackpot to set off a fresh round of frenzied ticket buying.
"Typically, 60% of sales occur the last day,'' says Chuck Strutt, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. "We'll see how many people decide to play $500 million."
The odds of pulling the six winning numbers are slim: one in 175 million. But sales in many of the 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been up since the jackpot hit an estimated $325 million last weekend.
Tickets are normally available about an hour before the drawing, which is scheduled for 10:59 ET Wednesday.
As Colorado State Lottery director Abel Tapia notes, "We're in the luck business. What we sell is dreams."
Colorado lottery ticket sales are up 92% over last week. "We have a loyal following that plays all the time, but the magic number for us is $200 million. That's when a lot of new people start thinking about it, talking about and playing it,'' Tapia says. "At $425 million, it will go into overdrive Wednesday."
In several states, sales were goosed by the burgeoning size of the lottery, which has rolled over 16 times, the long Thanksgiving weekend and travelers purchasing tickets in on-the-go spots such as gasoline stations.
Even small states such as Rhode Island are enjoying a surge. The state, which has 1 million residents, sells about $1 million worth of tickets a day, about four times higher than normal, says lottery director Gerry Aubin. The state is home to Louise White, the Newport octogenarian who won a $336.4 million Powerball jackpot in February.
Wednesday's Powerball jackpot won't come close to the $656 million MegaMillions jackpot paid out in April. That jackpot rolled over - and got substantially bigger - several times before the numbers were picked on three tickets.
"I'd be surprised if this Powerball jackpot were to roll over again,'' says Buddy Roogow, director of D.C.'s Lottery. "Most of the (number) combinations will have been played."