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Powerball bounces back into the stratosphere with $320 million jackpot

The line forms here, or more likely out on the sidewalk and down the block. Wannabe millionaires were flocking to convenience stores, gas stations and other lottery outlets to get in on Saturday's Powerball drawing, the sixth-richest ever, at $320 million.

"While this is business as usual, we do expect our retail locations to see an increase in foot traffic over the weekend, as sales have already been brisk," Jeff Anderson, director of the Idaho Lottery, one of the 43 state lotteries that will take part in Saturday night's drawing, told NBC station KTVB of Boise, Idaho.

Saturday's jackpot swelled after no one won Wednesday's top prize of $261.6 million — the 12th straight drawing without a winner — and players were streaming into New Orleans lottery sellers before dawn Friday in what officials called a "Powerball frenzy," NBC station WDSU of New Orleans reported.

The Multi-State Lottery Association, which administers Powerball, said the odds of hitting the precise combination of five numbers plus the Powerball multiplier were 175,223,510 to 1. Winners can take the full $320 million spread out over 30 years, or they can opt for an immediate one-time payout of $198.3 million. 

The biggest jackpot was handed out only four months ago, when two winners in Arizona and Missouri split $587.5 million. Here are the rest of the top five:

  • $365 million: One winner in Nebraska on Feb. 18, 2006.
  • $340 million: Two winners in Oregon on Oct. 19, 2005.
  • $337 million: One winner on Aug. 15, 2012, in Michigan.
  • $336.4 million: One winner in Rhode Island on Feb. 11, 2012.

Anderson of the Idaho lottery warned players to be careful, because the prospect of loot like that can lure them into trouble.

"Big Powerball jackpots are a lot of fun," he said. But "we want to remind everyone that when they do play to only spend what they can afford — not to go overboard. It does only take one ticket to win."

Saturday's drawing is at 9:55 p.m. ET.

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