- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A $320 million Powerball jackpot is scheduled for Wednesday night, and officials are hoping the million-dollar mania that seized the area earlier this year could turn the drawing into a record-breaking win.

The national drawing is set to be the fourth-largest in Powerball history — the top prize was $365 million won six years ago — but that number could rise, Virginia Lottery Executive Director Paula Otto said, as jackpot hopefuls hit the ticket machines in the hours leading up to the drawing.

By early Tuesday afternoon, the lottery had jumped to $320 million, up $15 million from projections made earlier in the day.

“We sell the most tickets the night of the drawing,” Ms. Otto said. “It’ll be interesting to see if the country’s excitement meter has gotten reset after that $600 million jackpot.”

In early April, a world record Mega Millions $656 million jackpot captured the imagination of lottery players in the D.C.-area and around the country, as wishful gamblers tried their luck at a slice of the largest jackpot in world history.

The $320 million Powerball jackpot would pay out a little over $200 million after taxes in a lump-sum payment, though that number would shrink if more than one person held a winning combination of numbers.

Powerball is a national lottery played in 42 states, including Maryland and the District.

Ms. Otto said a $336 million Powerball lottery was won by a single person in Rhode Island in February, but that was quickly overshadowed by the half-billion-dollar Mega Million jackpot a month later.

When the dust settled, three winning tickets were produced — one in Kansas, Illinois, and Maryland. The Maryland winners, three public school employees known as “the three amigos,” claimed their $218.6 million winnings anonymously.

Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Erica Palmisano said the $656 million jackpot might have “hardened people to lower jackpots” but there was already talk on the agency’s Facebook page about the Powerball drawing on Wednesday.

“We’ve heard from retailers and people are really starting to get excited,” Ms. Palmisano said.

Ms. Palmisano said that as of Monday afternoon, the odds of winning the jackpot are 175.2 million to one, chances that “are terrible,” she said, but fortunately for area residents, there seems to be extra good luck in local ticket machines.

Last week a Randallstown, Md., man won a $1 million second-tier Powerball jackpot.

In April, a woman bought two Powerball tickets in Berryville, Va., and won $2 million, adding to the total of 8 winning tickets sold in Virginia in the last two years.

In 2007, two of the four winning tickets in a $330 million Mega Millions jackpot — the fifth-largest in the jackpot’s history — were sold in Maryland and Virginia.

A D.C. man won a $144 million Powerball lottery in 2009, and on Christmas Eve last year, a Powerball ticket worth $125 million was sold at a store in Elkton, Md.

“It will be exciting anticipating the jackpot for tomorrow night,” Ms. Otto said. “The needle does move. At $100 million we definitely see a bump in sales, then $200 million, and $300 million is really the beginning of the frenzy.”