Near-Record Powerball Jackpot Sparks Lottery Fever Across United States

Image: People Purchase Lottery Tickets for Powerball which is at 700 million US dollars
People wait outside the Bluebird Liquor store to purchase lottery tickets on August 22, 2017 in Hawthorne, California. The Powerball lottery has risen to 700 million US dollars making it one of the largest in history. The drawing will take place August 23, 2017.Mike Nelson / EPA

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By David Douglas

While the chances of winning are minuscule, this week’s Powerball jackpot is unquestionably huge: Wednesday night's drawing has the chance to change at least one life forever.

The $700 million prize is the second-largest in the game’s history, after a $1.6 billion jackpot back in January 2016, which split the win between lucky players in three states.

In Primm, California, on Tuesday, the Lotto Store had lines out the door as hundreds of lucky-feeling Nevadans made the 45-minute drive from Las Vegas. While Nevada is gambling-friendly, it has no state lottery.

Buying tickets in Studio City, California, a grinning Nick Thompson said the biggest trick after winning is not letting anyone know.

“Not give any to family, not give any to friends, and buy real estate,” he said, perhaps only half-jokingly.

In Miami, Florida, Powerball player David Nunez was feeling more charitable.

“I’d donate a lot of it, you have to if you win that much,” he said. “The rest I’d set up family and friends and retire from regular life”.

Should a winner be drawn, they could opt for the lump sum payout of $443 million dollars. And CNBC reports the federal and state tax withholding could suck nearly $150 million from your pocket instantly.

Still, with $293 million after taxes, there’s still plenty you could buy. How about a pair of luxury yachts? Or a Tesla Model S for 3,500 of your closest friends? For those feeling even more altruistic, you could provide a college education at an average private college for 2500 aspiring students.

Making any of that reality however means facing very long odds. The chance of having a winning ticket is just 1 in 292 million. Even buying a few hundred tickets barely makes a dent. For many, just one ticket is worth a chance at once-in-a-lifetime luck.

“I’m gonna win,” Nunez said. “My friends laugh, but I’m going to win eventually.”