If it seems as though lottery jackpots keep growing in size, you're right — the multistate Powerball lottery has ballooned to its third-largest size in history, and one or several lucky people could win Wednesday night's drawing.
At this writing, the Powerball is worth an estimated $360 million, with a $229.2 million cash value. The Associated Press says not only is this one of the biggest Powerball jackpots ever, it's the seventh-largest prize ever awarded in any lottery.
The last big Powerball winner was Pedro Quezada of New Jersey, who took home a $338 million prize in March. The jackpot has rolled over since then, although there have been smaller winners who've claimed $1 million prizes.
Why are the prizes so much bigger? Powerball officials say it's because ticket prices recently doubled, from $1 to $2 per ticket: "In these first draws we've seen a big jump in prize dollars moved to players and a big jump in dollars raised for good causes in each state."
The lottery has also made it "easier" to win, by dropping some of the red Powerball numbers. By easier, that means your chance of winning the grand prize has improved from one in 195 million to about 1 in 175 million. But those lucky few who do win are considerably richer: the group says the amount of money going to the jackpot fund is nearly twice what it used to be, meaning the average jackpot has risen from $141 million to $255 million. If you are just hoping to win one of the smaller grand prizes, the starting jackpot value has doubled from $20 to $40 million.
Remember — don't sit on a winning ticket for long, because states have deadlines between 90 days and a year. As Powerball's FAQ page reminds players, "The Universe is decaying and nothing lasts forever."
We're hoping that if there is a winner, he or she is as thrilled as this woman was last month: She Won $40,000! No, It Was $40 Million! Happy Dance Time!