Jackpot hits $1.5 billion in US lottery record


New York (AFP)

The largest jackpot in US history shot up to $1.5 billion on Tuesday, driven by record sales as people flock across state lines and international borders to buy tickets, a lottery executive said.

To win the jackpot, a ticket holder has to match all numbers on five white balls and one red ball selected at the twice weekly Powerball draw -- next due on Wednesday at 10:59 pm (0359 GMT Thursday).

The winner can choose to be paid the full jackpot in annual installments over 29 years -- or take a one-off cash payment of $930 million -- before taxes.

Through last Saturday about $1.75 billion in Powerball tickets have been bought since the last jackpot win on November 4, Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas Lottery and chair of the Powerball game group, told AFP.

At the last draw on Saturday, 25 people matched the first five numbers -- winning $1 million each -- and three others had paid a bonus netting them $2 million each but no one claimed the then $950 million jackpot.

Grief said sales were record breaking and could not rule out that the jackpot would again rise before Wednesday's draw.

"Sales are doing exponentially more than we've ever done before," he said, adding that they were more than double what they were before the last record US jackpot of $656 million in March 2012 -- won by ticket holders.

"I'm hearing anecdotally and through news outlets, millions of people who have never played Powerball before are indeed purchasing a ticket," said Grief.

Some retailers scoring the biggest sales are in states bordering the handful that do not participate in the Powerball, he said.

"People are flocking over from those states to stand in line and buy lottery tickets," he said. "You do not have to be a citizen of the US, people are coming from Mexico and Canada to purchase tickets," he added.

Forty-four US states take part in the Powerball along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

The world's richest lottery is Spain's annual Christmas "El Gordo," which in 2015 handed out 2.2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) but which capped individual wins at 400,000 euros and handed out thousands of smaller prizes.