California Lottery officials said Wednesday night that at least one winning Powerball ticket was sold for the estimated $1.6 billion jackpot in Chino Hills, California, a city just east of Los Angeles.
The numbers, drawn at 11 p.m. ET Wednesday, were: 4, 8, 19. 27, 34, with a Powerball of 10. The multiplier was 2X.
With Wednesday night's Powerball drawing reaching a record-high jackpot, players were going the extra mile in pursuit of the princely payout.
Retiree William Burke drove 45 minutes from his Nevada home to the California border, then spent three hours on line at a lottery vendor to scoop up 10 tickets for $20.
"I thought maybe I'd be part of history," Burke told The Associated Press.
Lottery officials had said earlier Wednesday that if no one matches the six winning numbers, the next drawing — set for Saturday — would likely feature a jackpot ballooning to an unprecedented $2 billion.
Since Nov. 7, when the Powerball was reset to its minimum $40 million, there have been no winners — ensuring a growing frenzy for folks dreaming of the ultra-luxe life.
Despite the impossible odds of winning — one in 292.2 million — the temptation of the big payoff remains. A winner would have the option of choosing an annuity payment option over 29 years or a lump-sum cash prize of about $930 million.
Even after Uncle Sam gets his 40 percent cut, the final take home would still be a staggering $560 million for a single winner.
Powerball is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
For those who live in the other six states where it isn't available, lottery sellers in border towns were reporting a surge in ticket sales, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball.
Even Canadians were joining in on the billion-dollar hoopla — crossing the U.S. border to buy tickets in droves and lining up outside one Toronto bakery where tickets were being given away.
"There are a lot of them coming over, a lot of them in the lineup," Jim Murphy, an employee at the Wedge Discount Liquor Store in Niagara Falls, New York, told Reuters on Wednesday.
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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, however, would be subject to a 30 percent U.S. withholding tax, plus possible state taxes. They would not face additional Canadian taxes.
While gaming competition concerns prevent the lottery in Nevada, religious beliefs have posed a barrier in Alabama, Mississippi and Utah.
Alaska has been more concerned that a lottery wouldn't pay off in such a sparsely populated state. In Hawaii, lawmakers have proposed lottery measures, but the idea always fails.
"I'm sure they're watching those dollars flow out of their state," said Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery.
In Alabama, people have been talking about instituting a lottery for years, in part because of sales in border states. Faced with tight state budgets and demands from voters, Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday introduced rival lottery bills for the legislative session that begins in February.
Mississippi state Rep. Alyce Clarke, a Democrat from Jackson, has repeatedly sponsored a lottery bill, but she said religious opposition always kills the idea. That could change this year because of Powerball, she explained, enabling the state to raise money to subsidize colleges or fix roads and bridges.
Lottery vendors in Georgia, which borders Alabama, are eager to see new customers.
Augusta, Georgia, couple Bill and Sandra Evans told NBC affiliate WAGT that they're confident they're holding the top ticket.
"This is her first time buying a ticket and she thinks somehow because it's her first time, she's gonna win. And I'll be surprised if she doesn't win something," a hopeful Bill Evans said.
Even lottery winners who've won previously were willing to press their luck for such a monster fortune.
Florida Real estate agent Laurie Finkelstein-Reader won $1 million three years ago with her co-workers as part of an office pool, she told TODAY. But they've decided to band together in the hopes of financial happiness.
"I believe lightning strikes as many times as your karma allows," Finkelstein-Reader said.