- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Somewhere in a Christmas stocking or holiday card this season could be a lottery ticket worth nearly $300 million.
The multistate Powerball lottery drawing is on Christmas and, with no winner Saturday, the prize is rising to what is expected to be its third-largest jackpot and largest Christmas jackpot since it started in 1992.
Figuring deductions for a lump-sum cash option and taxes, a single winner would receive about $92 million enough to buy about 4.6 million Rapunzel Barbie dolls.
The jackpot amounts are driven by ticket sales, so it's impossible to predict exactly how much the jackpot will be by Christmas night, said Nebraska Lottery spokesman Brian Rockey. But from Wednesday to Saturday, the jackpot grew by $54.5 million to $217.8 million nearly $3 million more than anticipated.
"It would certainly make for a jolly Christmas," Mr. Rockey said.
Usually, there's a drop in lottery-ticket sales when people are off their normal routines, but this holiday season the chance at millions and a flood of ad campaigns in several states could boost sales.
Nebraska lottery officials are promising buyers a complimentary holiday card and envelope if they spend $10 or more on tickets.
In Pennsylvania, which joined Powerball in June, holiday-themed television commercials with singer Ray Charles promote the lottery.
West Virginia is taking a different approach. Instead of promoting the ever-growing jackpot, lottery officials there are running television ads urging players not to overspend on tickets.
"It only takes a dollar," West Virginia Lottery spokeswoman Libby White said.
The highest Powerball jackpot was $295.7 million, won July 29, 1998, by group of factory workers in Ohio. But all that cash is harder than ever to win.
Powerball tickets are available in 24 states and the District. Players pick five numbers out of a pool of 53, and then the Powerball is picked from a pool of 42.
The Multi-State Lottery Association said the odds of winning the jackpot varied from 1 in 80 million to 1 in 120 million.
If a winning ticket is drawn Dec. 25, it would not be the first Christmas jackpot.
In 1996, Hugh and Janice Robinson of Hailey, Idaho, were the winners of a $48.3 million Powerball jackpot drawn on Christmas Day. At the time, they opted to keep their jobs as a chauffeur and supermarket clerk and take annual payments of $1.74 million over 20 years.
Mr. Robinson declined to comment on his life since then.
"It's taken five years to settle down, and I really don't want to get back in the spotlight again," he said.

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