Powerball sales surge; jackpot estimated at $425 million
Powerball mania has once again struck the state as residents seek their 1 in 175 million chance of purchasing that $425 million winning Powerball ticket.
Citing strong nationwide sales, Multi-State Lottery Association officials on Tuesday raised the estimated jackpot for Wednesday night's Powerball drawing from $400 to $425 million.
The new jackpot, which also has one-time lump-sum payout option of $244.7 million, is the third-highest in Powerball history, and is the fourth-highest jackpot of any U.S. lottery game.
It is also the fourth time in the last 18 months that a Powerball or MegaMillions jackpot has surpassed the $400 million mark.
And just like they did the last three times, local residents are shelling out cash their chance(s) to claim the prize.
"Whenever the jackpot gets above $300 million, and then above $400 million, ticket sales always increase dramatically," West Virginia Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said.
That's good news for the state Lottery, even if no one claims the prize.
State retailers sold more than $4 million worth of Powerball tickets ahead of Powerball's record $588 million jackpot drawing last November.
That four-day total bested the $3.8 million worth of tickets sold for Powerball, MegaMillions and Hot Lotto games during the entire month of October last year.
In fact, during that drawing's peak sales time period, state retailers were logging more than 1,200 Powerball transactions per minute. At a minimum of $2 per transaction, that meant retailers statewide were selling at least $40 worth of Powerball tickets every second.
Burnside didn't have hourly sales figures Tuesday afternoon, but he said Lottery officials were expecting a similar sales peak heading into Wednesday evening's drawing.
"The highest (sales) point is usually during the drive home time on the day of the actual drawing," he said. "That's when we usually get the largest sales rate for the state."
Sales also peak around morning commute times and during the lunch hour.
While Lottery officials hope a West Virginia resident will hit it big in Wednesday's drawing, Burnside said the state could face a perfect storm should no one win the jackpot in this drawing.
"If it rolls again and no one hits it on Wednesday, you're looking at an even bigger super-jackpot come Saturday," Burnside said.
The sales period for the next drawing would then coincide with the opening of the West Virginia State Fair in Lewisburg. The lottery sets up a remote sales booth at the fair, which is heavily trafficked during the event.
"The State Fair is a big sales time for us," Burnside said. "It becomes the largest Lottery retailer in the state during the weeks of the fair is going on."
Burnside said a new record-high Powerball jackpot coinciding with the State Fair could result in a frenetic surge of sales at the Lottery's remote operations tent at the fairgrounds near Lewisburg.
According to Multi-State Lottery Association data, Powerball has recorded more than $8 billion in ticket sales since the game was converted to its $2 ticket format last January.
The new format was designed to produce higher jackpots with even more winners. While the odds hitting the jackpot are 1 in more than 175 million, the overall odds of winning any prize on a given ticket are just 1 in 32.
Since the $2 version of the game started on Jan. 18, 2012, 25 people have won the Powerball jackpot; 16 in 2012 and 9 so far in 2013.
The game has also created another 767 new millionaires in that time, 655 people have won the $1 million prize while another 112 have won $2 million by playing the additional $1 Power Play option.
Burnside said the number of millionaires would go up by one if the person who bought a $1 million winning ticket in Beckley ahead of the March 16 drawing would come forward and collect their prize.
In March, Lottery officials announced a million-dollar Powerball ticket had been sold at the Little General convenience store at 3604 Robert C. Byrd Drive in Beckley. But as of Tuesday, no one had yet to come forward to collect the prize.
Burnside said tickets expire 180 days after the drawing date, so the winner has until Sept. 12 to come forward.
"If it goes unclaimed. . .then that money goes into the unclaimed prize fund, which we return to players through our second chance prize fund," Burnside said.
He said even if no one hits the jackpot Wednesday, anyone who bought a ticket should go back and check to see if they won a smaller amount.
"If you think you didn't win the jackpot, you should still go to a retailer and scan your ticket just to see if you maybe hit $100 or $10,000," he said. "Always check your tickets, and do it sooner rather than later."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.