- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The drawing for the second-largest lottery jackpot of all time is Wednesday night, when it will either irrevocably alter the life of a lucky ticket holder or send the nation into a never-before-seen state of money mania — again.

Eight months after a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot captured the imagination of wishful gamblers, this week’s Powerball jackpot is doing the same, with the prize reaching $500 million Tuesday. The cash value of Wednesday’s jackpot — for which tickets can be bought in 42 states, the District and the U.S. Virgin Islands — is $327 million.

Lottery officials said it’s the largest Powerball jackpot since the game started in 1992, and the first sign that upping the ticket price from $1 to $2 in January has had an impact on the game.

“Who knew history could happen again in the same calendar year?” said Virginia Lottery Executive Director Paula Otto. “This is definitely resetting jackpot fever.”

Wednesday’s Powerball prize grew to its current size after 15 drawings without a winner, said Maryland Lottery spokeswoman Carole Everett, though she also credits the news for helping to generate interest.

“As soon as someone wins, you get a big story,” Ms. Everett said. “It’s exciting. Everybody’s talking about it.”

In late March, area residents watched for several weeks as the Mega Millions jackpot rolled over and over before finally surpassing a half-billion-dollar prize. By the time the three winning tickets were drawn, fevered ticket sales had pushed the jackpot to $656 million.

Not counting this week’s Powerball jackpot, the next largest payout in lottery history was in January 2011, when winners in Idaho and Washington state split $240 million. In 2007, a $233.1 million cash prize was split by two ticket holders in New Jersey and Georgia.

Dozens of winning scratch-off tickets, second-tier cash prizes for the multimillion-dollar games and a handful of million-dollar tickets have been sold in the D.C. area.

In 2009, a grocery store in Southeast sold a winning Powerball ticket worth $144 million. D.C. Powerball spokeswoman Athena Hernandez said this week’s “sales had been brisk” and likely would hit $1 million worth of tickets in the District alone by Wednesday night’s drawing.

On Christmas Eve 2011, Wesley’s Restaurant and Cocktails in Elkton, Md., sold a winning $125 million Powerball ticket to a man who came in to buy beer. During the Mega Millions hysteria, the establishment had seen lines of people hoping for lightning to strike twice, said Jeff Wesley, who sold the winning ticket.

This time around, he said people are coming in to buy tickets by the hundreds.

Mr. Wesley said some people come in and say they think the store has used up its luck from last year, but he sees it differently.

“Now that it’s happened once, I truly believe it can happen again.”

The Quick Shop in Ottumwa, Iowa, is one of the state’s highest-volume lottery ticket sellers due to its location across the street from a John Deere farm equipment factory.

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