Powerball sales surge statewide
West Virginia Lottery retailers experienced a typical week's worth of sales in one day Wednesday, as Powerball-crazed customers flooded stores to purchase tickets.
For the second time in as many days, Multi-State Lottery Association officials upped the Powerball jackpot to a new record Wednesday morning, raising the pot from $500 million to $550 million.
The increased total is the highest in the game's 20-year history. Whoever beats the 1-in-175-million odds will get the choice of a $550 million annuity paid over three decades, or a lump sum cash payment of $360.2 million.
Both totals are before taxes, of course.
West Virginia Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said sales surged statewide Wednesday as residents began dreaming of what they could do with $550 million.
Just before 4 p.m., Lottery retailers had sold $1.3 million worth of Powerball tickets. Burnside said that daily total was significant, considering the sales for all online Lottery games typically average about $1.5 million per week.
During the afternoon hours, state Lottery retailers were recording about 870 transactions per minute.
That meant the Lottery was selling at least $29 worth of Powerball tickets each second. The amount is likely higher since it doesn't count use of the $1 Powerplay multiplier option or multiple draws on one ticket.
Burnside also said those figures were prior to the evening commuter rush, which is typically a peak sales time across the state.
Between Wednesday and Saturday of last week, lottery retailers logged sales of $1.2 million for Saturday's drawing. As of 4 p.m. this Wednesday, retailers had sold a total of $2.7 million worth of Powerball tickets for Wednesday night's drawing.
Multi-State Lottery Association officials raised Wednesday's jackpot from $425 million to $500 million Tuesday, citing the strength of sales. Continued growth in sales led to Wednesday morning's increase.
Lottery officials had not estimated how high the jackpot could climb if no one won the jackpot Wednesday night.
But with the high number of tickets sold, the odds were likely that someone would do so.
"Sales are so high nationwide that the odds are someone will win, but you never know," Burnside said. "It's total randomness."
Customers had until 9:59 p.m. to buy tickets ahead of the 10:59 p.m. Wednesday drawing.
State Lottery officials took advantage of the sales frenzy by hosting two special promotional events at One Stop locations in Charleston and South Charleston Wednesday.
During the events, players who bought two Powerball tickets and used the $1 Powerplay option received free scratch-off tickets. Players who bought $20 or more in Powerball tickets were allowed to play the Plinko game for the chance to win West Virginia Lottery promotional tickets and other items.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5148.