DES MOINES, Iowa — The Powerball jackpot has jumped to $550 million, a major climb less than a day after the latest drawing produced no winning ticket.
The announcement Thursday by the Multi-State Lottery Association means ticket sales have soared as the frenzy grows for a chance to win the big prize.
Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery, says the latest jackpot number has the potential to break the record for largest jump between drawings. That still belongs to a Powerball jackpot in November 2012, when the jackpot jumped $260 million to reach the all-time Powerball jackpot record of $587.5 million.
The latest jackpot has climbed nearly $200 million since Wednesday’s drawing, which was an estimated $360 million.
The new jackpot has a $350.1 million cash option. The next drawing is scheduled for Saturday.
Lottery officials expect jackpot totals of this size to continue to climb in shorter amounts of time, thanks in part to a game redesign in January 2012 that increased the odds of winning some kind of prize, but also lowered the possible number combinations to win the Powerball.
There’s also “cross-selling” of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets — states being able to sell both Powerball tickets and Mega Millions tickets — that began in January 2010. As a result, large jackpots will continue to surpass all-time jackpot records set years ago, said Mary Neubauer, spokeswoman for the Iowa Lottery. Iowa is one of the founding Powerball states.
“It usually took a handful of months, if not several months, for a jackpot to reach this large amount,” she said. “Now it’s achieving that within a handful of weeks. I think the redesign is achieving exactly what we had wanted it to achieve, which is the bigger, faster-growing jackpot.”
The redesign means players don’t necessarily have to strike big to get lucky. A $1 increase and new $1 million and $2 million prizes means the odds of winning something have increased. On Wednesday, $1 million prizes were won in 16 states, and $2 million prizes were won in two states.
In fact, more than half of the all-time jackpot records have been reached in the last three years. The top two all-time jackpots — $656 million from a Mega Millions jackpot and $587.5 million from a Powerball jackpot — were in 2012.
The last major jackpot win came when a New Jersey man won a $338.3 million jackpot March 23. It is now considered the fourth-largest Powerball jackpot in history.
Players aren’t complaining about the large sums. That just gets them thinking.
“I’d hire someone to tell me what to do with the money,” said R.J. Konyek, 36, an engineer for Union Pacific in Omaha, Neb. “I’d definitely be up for the challenge (of spending the jackpot).”
Insurance agent Joe Williams, of Middleton, Wis., is trying like so many others to get lucky with Powerball. He won $500 several years ago and now wants to score a little higher. Williams doesn’t necessarily spend more when the prize is high. But his $4 investment in the quick-pick option means he does spend.
“I know rationally it makes no sense,” he said. “But at the same time, without a ticket, I have zero chance.”
Ervin Torok, a truck driver from Sioux Falls, S.D., also is looking for his second chance. He won a $500 prize a few years back.
“You never know,” Torok, 52, said while checking some lottery tickets from a gas station. “Maybe one day you’ll get lucky and win.”
Tom Powers, 52, a janitor from Omaha, Neb., bought several tickets Tuesday from a convenience store. He said he would definitely walk away from work if he won the jackpot, but he’s not sure how he would spend all the winnings.
“It’s really unfathomable the amount of money this is putting out,” Powers said.