Three winning tickets on Wednesday shared a US$1.6 billion bonanza in the US Powerball lottery, after millions of people tuned in to see the fate of the world-record jackpot live on TV.
The winning numbers were 4, 8, 19, 27 and 34, with a 10 as the so-called Powerball number.
Lottery fever gripped the US, with people forming long lines outside stores to buy tickets and then frantically checking their US$2 slips to see if they had hit the jackpot.
“It’s official! There were 3 jackpot-winning tickets in tonight’s Powerball draw: California, Florida & Tennessee,” California Lottery tweeted.
Local television showed swarms of people, many cheering and chanting, descending on the Los Angeles convenience store where the California ticket was sold.
The jackpot, which had stood at US$1.5 billion for much of the day, eventually crept up to nearly US$1.59 billion, a record in the US lottery industry.
The three winners will rake in an eye-watering US$528.8 million each, NBC News said, although the taxman will soon come calling.
The odds of winning were at least one in 292 million.
There was a windfall too for Balbir Atwal, owner of a 7-Eleven franchise in Chino Hills, a Los Angeles suburb, who will pocket a US$1 million bonus for selling a winning ticket.
“I didn’t expect this big crowd but my Chino Hills customers love me, and I love them,” he told CNN, grinning broadly.
Despite the miniscule chances of hitting the jackpot, shops all over the US did a roaring trade in frenzied last-minute ticket sales in the final hours before the live raw.
Office workers dashed out between meetings to buy tickets, fantasizing about what they would do with the winnings, and commuters in New York joked about scooping the jackpot to save them from the deep freeze of winter.
For days, the talk of the US, from coast to coast, and even from Canada to Mexico, was: Will someone finally win the first Powerball in two months and, if you were to win, how would you spend such a whopping jackpot?
“I’m not a regular, but why not? Like the commercial says: ‘Hey, you never know,’” said Nick Friedberg, a carpenter and father of two drinking coffee on a bitterly cold street in Manhattan.
“Non-stop, everyone’s talking about it,” he said, running through a list of things he would like to buy. “Do the world, that’s for sure.
Lottery executives say ticket sales reached record levels, generating more than US$1 million an hour in Texas alone in the final build-up to the draw. Wednesday’s jackpot started at US$40 million on Nov. last year and was the result of 20 draws with no overall winner.
“Sales are doing exponentially more than we’ve ever done before,” Gary Grief, head of the Powerball game group, said on Tuesday.
“I’m hearing anecdotally and through news outlets, millions of people who have never played Powerball before are indeed purchasing a ticket,” he said.
It was a bonanza of sorts for retailers too.
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